AROW80 Check-In for July 11, 2018

Howdy! There’s not a whole lot to report, except that I’m getting some writing done, which is a nice change from how things have been going. I have actually managed to get three pages written today and I’ve got plans to get a bit more done.  Chapter Twenty-One is moving along apace and I am happy with what I’m doing.

One of the things that has been tricky for this chapter is the fact that I had to stop and do a bit of on the fly worldbuilding.  Luckily, I was able to fall back on some older science fiction ideas and rework them into something that felt right (and which can be tweaked further in order to make better sense later on).   And today, I kinda/sorta outsourced some of my worldbuilding. See, I’ve got aliens from Alpha Centauri/Proxima Centauri and I needed local names for their worlds. So, I looked up a couple generators — one for Nonsense Words at Soybomb.com and one for Lovecraftian Names at Seventh Sanctum (which has scads of other generators for all sorts of things).  I picked out a few words that gave me the right mind-feel and moved on.

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A Round of Words in 80 Days: Round 3, 2018 — Goals Post

I’m going to keep this relatively short and sweet. For a change. My goals for this time around are:

  1. Finish Omegas: Cake Walk: As in, finish the first fully typed up draft of the story from beginning to end and then take a break before going in for a round of editing. I’m fairly close to the end of the story now, so hopefully between July 2nd and September 20th, 2018, I can manage to get it done.
  2. Write more blog posts: For no other reason than that it’s fun to ramble about stuff. Specifically about writing. Maybe about reading, especially about post-apocalyptic mens adventure novels.  And about world-building.
  3. Start researching Omegas: Long Shot: I have some of the research already done, I just need to finish up a bit more and then start trying to craft a plot that can combine time travel, Pleistocene Americans, and cheesy syndicated TV shows.
  4. Noodle around with some of my other WIPs that are currently on the back burner and that could be brought round to the front for a bit. 

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Harlan Ellison, 1934-2018

Harlan Ellison, Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer, Dead at 84 – Link leads to NPR obituary.

Harlan Ellison was one of the first writers I read nearly as much of his work as I could get my hands on. His short story/novella “A Boy and His Dog” was partly responsible for my lifelong interest in post-apocalyptic fiction and the movie that was made is more than partly responsible for 13 year old me pestering my mom about getting a VCR.

Ellison wrote a lot of interesting and edgy stories. He also is one of the first authors whose non-fiction writing drew my interest. I remember telling my mom about an essay Ellison wrote about a civil rights march and how the National Guard had their guns pointed at the marchers, not at the people threatening them and how outraged I was by that.

A description of an episode of the Outer Limits that he wrote, called “Soldier” had a lifelong impact on me as a writer, mainly in the shape of my enjoyment of creating certain types of characters.

His “A to Z in the Chocolate Alphabet” is still one of my favorite fantasy stories – for all that it’s really just a collection of snippets each themed around a letter of the alphabet. I have a comic book adaptation of it and it is a prized possession.

As I grew older, reading some of Ellison’s writings, especially about his problems with the TV industry, led to me becoming less than gruntled with him. On the one hand, by that point I was old enough to understand that yeah, the TV industry was producing a lot of crap but on the other hand, for all the righteous criticism he gave, Ellison didn’t seem to have a problem with taking their money. Also, he seemed more than ready to throw fans of his TV work under the bus.

Some of the stories I’ve heard about Harlan Ellison tie into the idea that he was “America’s weird uncle,” the guy who would say anything, no matter how outrageous and charm you with the story afterwards — especially if he can control the entire narrative.  Things like him sending 213 bricks, postage due, to an editor who refused to pay him.  Others, like his groping of Connie Willis at the 2006 Hugo Awards, serve as a reminder that weird uncles can and often are, assholes who can talk a good game.

I haven’t read much of Ellison’s work in the last twenty or so years except rereading “A Boy and His Dog” a while back. I’m sad that he’s gone, but mainly in the sense that this serves as a reminder that bits and pieces of my childhood are slowly vanishing from the world. And considering how problematic some of the bits and pieces of my childhood were/are, that’s not necessarily a bad thing but, as problematic as he is/was/will continue to be, Harlan Ellison had a fairly big influence on me as a reader, a writer and a person. My condolences to those who will be most affected by his passing.

AROW80 Update for 6/27/18

Editing to add: consider this my last post for AROW80 Round 2 of 2018. I’ll be posting my Round 3 goals post soon.

Hi! It’s been a while since I updated, mainly due to circumstances that are almost entirely under my control and which amount to “I wanted to do something else” instead of posting an update. So, here we are.

First things first: Omegas: Cake Walk proceeds slowly. I’m working on Chapter Twenty-One and I’ve hit a wall.  The reason for the wall is that I’m about to unveil some information that is going to be crucial to figuring out What’s Really Going On — so, the information has to make sense and be consistent with what I’ve previously written. Or at least not so wildly divergent from what I’ve already done that editing will be even tougher than it’s going to be.

On the plus side, I’ve got an idea of what the Crucial Information is going to be and how to go about explaining it, so it’s just a question of getting the words to cooperate and get out of my head and onto the page.  The easy part, right?

*laughs hysterically, weeps a bit, laughs a bit more* Yeahhh, so, on to other things..

The month of June is proceeding apace. There’s not a whole lot to report. Work is work. Amazon Prime has season 20 of Midsomer Murders, which is happy-making.

On the Netflix side of things, I started watching Colony and really enjoyed the first season. Very nicely done story about alien invasion that reminds me of a more grown-up version of the miniseries “V” from back in the 1980s.

Also watched some of the later seasons of Death in Paradise which is a fun little British mystery series set in the Caribbean and features Danny John-Jules as one of the local constabulary (he played Cat in Red Dwarf). They did something really interesting when the show switched detectives in the third season that I won’t discuss as it’s a massive spoiler. There’s a cute lizard in the show too.

Reading-wise, I read a really, really great book recently: Dread Nation, by Justina Ireland (link goes to the author’s page and her summary of the book).  It’s a book that I bought after reading the first couple pages of the sample I got from Amazon and I read it in about two days during downtimes at work. It’s one of those books that I kept switching out of because I didn’t want to finish it too soon.

The premise behind the book is this: the dead began to rise during the Civil War, leading to the Blue and the Grey ganging up against the Green, so to speak. As part of the effort to prevent the zombie apocalypse, African American and Native American children were placed in combat schools and taught to fight the dead.

The main character, Jane McKeene, was born two days before the dead began to walk and, when we meet her, she’s in her senior year at a prestigious academy that trains African-American girls to be “Attendants” to wealthy white families — think of them as a combination ladies’ maid and anti-zombie bodyguard. What Jane really wants is to go home to the Kentucky plantation where she was born and help protect her mother and the people she grew up with from the threat of “shamblers.”  (Yeah, it’s another case of a zombie story avoiding the Z-word but considering the time period, it works better than ‘zombie’.)

Quick backtrack: the opening line of the book is what sold me on this story. Because Jane talks about how she *almost* didn’t live long enough to see the dead walk because when she was born, the midwife nearly killed her because a dark brown baby wasn’t supposed to come out of the plantation owner’s wife.  With an opening like that, you have to read on to find out more.  And you do and it is worth it.

Dread Nation was right up my street for a few reasons: first, I’m a sucker for well-done historical stories (Lindsey Davis’s Marcus Didius Falco mysteries and the follow-up series featuring his adopted daughter Flavia Albia come to mind as first among equals.). And, from there it’s a hop, skip and a jump to enjoying a good alternate history story (In the Presence of Mine Enemies is a nice example of Harry Turtledove’s alternate history stories and is a standalone).

Dread Nation is also a good example of a post-apocalyptic society, in the literal sense that the apocalypse is over (more or less) by the time the story starts. Society has moved on and adjusted to the new status quo: namely that the dead will rise and someone must put them down when they do. The zombies of Dread Nation are the usual sort: people turn when they are bitten, the ‘fresher’ the corpse, the faster and more agile they are, but by and large the shamblers are rightly named, and the only way to be sure is to decapitate the zombie.  The likely cause of the apocalypse is a virus of some sort — though nobody in the book calls it that, since we’re still pre-germ theory of medicine. Mentions are made of Lister and Pasteur, which made my nerdy self go squee!

There’s even mention of the fact that society is changing even from the events of the apocalypse: Jane and her classmates are concerned about the fact that since the worst of the zombie problem appears to be over, there’s less of a demand for Attendants, except as status objects for wealthy white families. So, if they can’t get hired as Attendants, chances are they’ll end up on an ordinary zombie killing work gang.

As someone who has read a lot of apocalyptic fiction — zombies, nuclear holocaust, etc. — seeing a writer take into account the fact that societies don’t remain static is a huge plus. Especially when I’ve read other post-apocalyptic books where society doesn’t change over a period of several hundred years.  To the point that people six hundred plus years in the future continue to reference 20th century films as if there’s been no other culture in between. But that’s a rant for another day.

As a writer, there was one aspect of Dread Nation that made me sit back and go “Wow!” — namely the way Justina Ireland adapted real history to create her fictional world and also incorporated the real history in as well.

In the afterword, Ireland talks about how she learned about the U.S. government forcibly removed Native American children from their families/tribal groups and sent them to boarding schools (also called industrial schools) to educate them.  If you’ve been reading the news/following current events on social media, you might have heard something about this since it’s being compared to the forced removal of migrant children from their families.  To make a long, disgraceful story of American history short, Native American kids were taken from their families in an effort to forcibly assimilate them into Euro-American culture. This was done by refusing to allow the children to be “Indian” in any way — their clothes were taken from them, their hair cut, they were forced to speak English in an effort to make them forget their native languages, etc.  In addition, all the other sorts of abuses you can expect in a situation where minor children are at the mercy of adults who see them as something less than human happened too.  There’s more information available in the above link or  you can hit up Wikipedia’s article on Indian Boarding Schools.

Ireland isn’t, far as I can tell, Native American herself. Instead of trying to tell her story from a Native American perspective, she adapted the history in order to create a plausible world for Jane to live in. Her reasoning was pretty simple too: if Americans would attempt to “kill the Indian to save the man” (paraphrasing a real quote) during a time of relative peace and prosperity, what lengths would they go to during a disaster of apocalyptic proportions? Particularly to people they already didn’t think of as really people anyway?

Ireland spins out from the idea of boarding schools and uses this to tell a story that layers in questions of race and class as well as who matters in a society. And she does this while also balancing the spinning plates of “crafting a plausible alternate history,” “doing something fresh with the idea of zombies” and “giving you characters you care about.”  She succeeds on all counts and on a few more I didn’t mention.

The other book I read recently (ok, listened to) that touched on current issues was Stephen King’s Firestarter.  Since the library’s going to close in about 15 minutes, I’m not going to get to ramble about this one as much as I’d like so here’s the high points:

  • For an adult man, Stephen King does a halfway decent job of crafting a little girl (ok, it helped he had a daughter who was about Charlie’s age at the time but even still).
  • If you want an example of the use of psychic powers in a prose book, pick up Firestarter. You’ll also want to grab Carrie and Dead Zone, also by King.
  • Dead Zone also does a pretty decent job of portraying someone in a coma and the effects it has on the people around them.
  • If you want an example of the banality of Evil, read Firestarter. The government agents after the McGees are, almost to a one, punch-clock villains who don’t think they’re doing anything wrong.
  • This is a book that couldn’t be written today. Well, it could, but certain plot aspects would have to change. Charlie scavenging change from pay phones for one, and the fact that the government couldn’t issue an Amber Alert for Charlie, among others.
  • King’s older stuff is among his best stuff.

Ok, on that note, I have to pee and I want to go home and eat so I’m out for now. Hopefully you all are having a great week and will continue to do so.

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A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. If you want to join, you can at any time. Set the goals you want to accomplish and get and give encouragement to fellow ROWers. Click Here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list… Or, join us on Facebook at ROW80

 

AROW80 Update for June 3 & 6, 2018

Last update, I posted that I’d managed to write a few pages of Omegas: Cake Walk. This update, I am reporting that a goodly chunk of those pages are in the process of being rewritten because what I’d written Just Didn’t Work.  While this is disappointing, it’s not exactly the end of the world, since what I’m writing now works better and I think will give a better flow to the story.  And it gets me closer to the end of the story — which is still the ultimate goal.

Because then I can start editing this sucker!

Right now, I’m at just a bit over 130,000 words and I’m guessing the final draft will be closer to 150,000.  From what I’ve read about the typical word lengths of novels in various genres, science fiction novels usually clock in at anywhere between 90,000-120,00 words since descriptions and/or world-building tend to add to the word count. So, eventually, I’m going to need to start pruning words back but of course, before I can do that, I need to layer on a bunch more words.

It’s kind of like making a big pile of sand before you go about making a sandcastle. You need a big wonking amount of sand all in one spot before you can start removing sand to get to the castle or the mermaid or the life-size Chewbacca that’s your ultimate goal.

And with that clumsy segue, I saw Soio: A Star Wars Story on Monday! And I liked it bunches! No spoiler review is as follows: it was good, it told an origin story without getting too bogged down in layering on bits of lore and gave us a believable version of a young Han Solo that enhances the earlier movies which are set later in his personal timeline. It’s the kind of thing that the Prequel trilogy was going for with Darth Vader but didn’t quite reach.

Also, I loved L3. She speaks to the big, bold, brassy lady robot SJW in my soul.

Boilerplate Links:

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. If you want to join, you can at any time. Set the goals you want to accomplish and get and give encouragement to fellow ROWers. Click Here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list… Or, join us on Facebook at ROW80

WIPpet Wednesday was begun by  K. L. Schwengel.  and is currently hosted by Emily Wrayburn of Letting the Voices Out and A Keyboard and an Open Mind.  If you want to participate, post a snippet from your WIP, related in some way to the date and link back to here — where you can also read and comment on others’ excerpts. You can also request to join The WIPpeteers on Facebook.

 

AROW80 Update for May 27 and May 30 sans Wippet Snippet

Short update: I managed to write about three pages of Omegas: Cake Walk yesterday! This is the first day in a while that I’ve written more than a few paragraphs at a stretch. I need to edit some of it, but better out than in!

Edited on 6/7/2018 to add:

Boilerplate Links:

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. If you want to join, you can at any time. Set the goals you want to accomplish and get and give encouragement to fellow ROWers. Click Here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list… Or, join us on Facebook at ROW80

WIPpet Wednesday was begun by  K. L. Schwengel.  and is currently hosted by Emily Wrayburn of Letting the Voices Out and A Keyboard and an Open Mind.  If you want to participate, post a snippet from your WIP, related in some way to the date and link back to here — where you can also read and comment on others’ excerpts. You can also request to join The WIPpeteers on Facebook.

Because today’s Election Day here in the U.S., have a snippet!

When I first started plotting Omegas: Cake Walk, I settled on April 2007 for reasons that escape me now (honestly, while there is a specific reason for 2007, the reason for April is more “Ehh, this’ll do” than anything else). Specifically, I set the story during the week of April 23-30, 2007 (again, for no better reason than “The events in the story take place over a week, this is a week that’s as good as any other week in which to set my tale”).

Come to find out, once I committed to the time frame, the Democratic Presidential debates occurred during this time frame. While Omegas: Cake Walk doesn’t take place in our reality, it takes place in one that’s similar so I decided to run with the idea. Which led to this exchange about voting and how living in a comic book universe could screw things up:

“I’m just saying: voting’s a waste of time,” Frankie said as he plucked half a dozen oversized strawberries from the tray and stacked them onto a paper plate. “Whoever wins, somebody’s just gonna go back in time and step on the wrong bug and screw everything up. It’s inevitable.”

“That only happened once, back in ’52,” Laney said, smacking the table and causing a small avalanche of plump, green grapes to cascade down from the tray. Frankie scooped them up as well, as she continued. “And once the Sequential Safeguards were able to straighten things out and push through the Eckels-Simpson Act to outlaw political tampering with the time stream.”

Note: Yeah, this a multiple-part reference to “A Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury, in which a character, essentially, steps on the wrong bug and screws everything up. The story was published in 1952 and the character who screws things up is named Eckles.

The law also references the Simpsons episode “Treehouse of Horror V” — specifically the short “Time and Punishment” in which Homer tries to fix his toaster and ends up destroying multiple timelines.  “Stupid bug, you go squish now!”

Note the second: I agree with Laney, voting isn’t a waste of time. In fact, voting today took a lot less time than I was afraid it would and I was able to get in and out of my polling place in less than fifteen minutes (wasting time between 5 am and 6:30 am on the other hand….that took some doing).

Note the third:  Currently, the plan is for the next Omegas story, Omegas: Long Shot, to involve time travel, Pleistocene Era America, and cheesy syndicated TV shows.

 

 

*Insert Cheesy ‘It’s Been A Long Time’ Joke here*

But, WOW has it ever been a long time since I posted here. A lot has changed since I last posted but a lot really hasn’t. Still working at the same job, still living in the same apartment, still with the same incredibly awesome girlfriend, still in Ohio and still writing.

What’s really new? I finished a complete first draft of a novel set in the U-46534 universe and am on my way toward finishing the second draft of that novel. Pretty well chuffed about that.

Other new things: started watching the CW’s Arrowverse shows after getting hooked on Legends of Tomorrow (pretty much entirely because Captain Cold and Heat Wave were on the show and Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell are amazing together and also very easy on the eyes. *swoon*). This led to me watching the Flash, which led to Supergirl and Arrow and now Black Lightning (which isn’t set in the Arrowverse but which is an incredibly good show, especially if you like superheroes in the real world).

Saw Black Panther — loved it.

Tried Bolivian food — loved it.

Went to Ohio’s Amish Country — loved it. Want to go back. The pies…oh god, the pies…

I’m going to try getting back into blogging because I miss having a place where I can blather on about stuff. So, *fingers crossed*.

 

Final Check-In for Round 4 — December 24, 2015

I hope everybody is having a very happy holiday season! Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Joyous Kwanzaa! Happy New Year!  And otherwise, just hope y’all are having a good end of the year.

I…have no idea how well I did on Nano this year. I didn’t keep track of how many words I wrote but I did write quite a bit. Mostly in the Gem City ‘verse. I started off with like, parts of two stories and I’m now sitting on parts of four or five stories! Plus, I’ve done some more work on fleshing out the world, which makes me happy.

I’ve also been doing a lot of research/brain stuffing in the form of reading comic books and comics-related science and philosophy books (Science of Superheroes and Science of Supervillains and Spider-Man and Philosophy, among others).   Which has been fun.

Also, for Christmas, the girlfriend and I got the complete 1960s Batman TV series from her mom. Oh, the cheese! The glorious, glorious, glorious cheese! It even came with a little toy Bat-mobile!

I’m going to keep writing during the break — eventually, I want to corral myself into typing up the stuff I have written, why I’m procrastinating about it, I do not know. Plans for next year are still forming in the back of my mind.

Again, hope you guys have a great holiday season and good luck in your endeavors!

PS: Saw Big Hero Six and it was the best movie I’ve seen in a long, long time.  Highly recommend. Made me cry (duh, Pixar movie); jealous of the storytelling.

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AROW80 update for 10/29/2014 + Nanowrimo Plans and Schemes

I have finished typing up the last of what I’ve got written (so far) for Defcon: Fade Out and the grand total is 145,247 words. Which blows me away but would make me a lot happier if it was one solid cohesive story. Instead, I’m pretty sure what I’m looking at is actually two separate books — or at least two separate stories that are related by a common thread.  Since the inspiration for this series is cheesy men’s adventure novels from the 1980s and those books did sometimes do “doubles” (i.e. two books in one) I might have this book be one of those.  I have to ponder the plan for this a bit more, but I’m fairly confident I can make it work.  Once again, it comes down to a question of figuring out where the gaps are and writing the bits to fill in those gaps.

Nanowrimo Plans:

I’d originally planned to use Nanowrimo to help fill in the gaps. The original plan was to have things typed up and the inventory done by the first of November. This isn’t going to happen, mainly because I don’t want to half-ass the work trying to get it done over the next two days and I want to hit the ground running come November 1st.

And, to be blunt about it, I need a break from Defcon: Fade Out. I’ve been working on it more or less steadily for a few years now and it’s time for a vacation. So, I’m taking the month of November off and working on something else.

Once again, I’m taking the Nanowrimo Rebel approach to the month. In my case, I’m not going to be working on a novel, I’m going to be working on some short stories. So, call it NaShoStoWriMo instead. The idea is still to try and write 50,000 words but instead of them being one novel, I’m hoping to get at least three or four stories out of the endeavor. I’m using the following word count categories from the SFWA as my guidelines:

  • Short story: less than 7.500 words
  • Novelette: at least 7,500 – 17,500 words
  • Novella: 17,500 – 40,000 words

I’m hoping to keep things within the novelette category. The plan is to make myself work on writing shorter pieces with an eye toward improving my writing’s tightness and my writing speed.  Toward that end and in keeping with the whole Nano-Rebel thing, I’ve actually already started working on one story. It’s an expansion on an idea that I posted a snippet of back in December of last year (it’s the second one in this post).

I have three other story ideas that I want to work on. Another one is set in the Gem City superhero universe, one in the Defcon universe and one that takes place in the Butcher’s Bill vampire hunting universe.  Going with the 50,000 total word goal, that gives me an average of about 12,500 words per story but the ultimate word count would be whatever is needed to finish the story.

Part of the reason for this interest in short stories is to work on finishing a complete story and another reason is to work on trying to get some things ready to submit for publication. One of the things I want to work on for 2015 is submitting something for publication. Toward that end, I’ve picked up a copy of the 2015 Writer’s Digest Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market as a way of encouraging/goading myself onward.

Come December, I’m going to start working on turning Defcon: Fade Out into that elusive goal: a finished piece. I’m also going to take another look at my old attempt at writing a Butcher’s Bill novel.

So, fingers crossed and here goes something!

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Join the Insect Army!

As I said over at Mr. Scalzi’s blog, I want to be either a trilobite (the Ute Native Americans of Utah used to wear them as amulets against disease and bullets and called them pachavee (little water bug) according to Wikipedia) or a 7-spotted ladybird, which is the state insect of Ohio. That’s right, we got a state insect! And a state fossil, which is the trilobite appropriately enough.

Whatever

“The problem is that the ‘vocal minority’ of insects who make up the new generation of writers don’t scramble for the shadows when outside lights shines on them—they bare their pincers and go for the jugular. Maybe it is a good thing that SFWA keeps them locked up. The newer members who Scalzi et al. brought in are an embarrassment to the genre.” — (name withheld) on SFF.net, during the recent unpleasantness.

Heh heh heh.

I realize, of course, that the person who wrote the comment above meant “insect” as an insult. But what do we know about insects? They are numerous, adaptable, highly successful as a class, and, when they put their mind to it, absolutely unstoppable. No wonder this person seems absolutely terrified.

As it happens, I have for a long time said that there are three types of writers: dinosaurs, mammals and cockroaches. Dinosaurs are the writers…

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About That Coke Ad

Whatever

Dear every conservative getting his underwear in a twist about that Coca Cola Super Bowl commerical in which not only was the “deeply Christian patriotic anthem” sung in something other than the English that Jesus spoke, but also featured a gay couple being happy with their kid:

Dudes, you’re aware that Katharine Lee Bates, the writer of the song, was almost certainly a lesbian, right? And while undoubtedly Christian, Bates used her faith as a foundation for progressive social activism that would have given the conservatives of her time, and possibly some conservatives now, the shudders and shakes (she also nearly resigned her professorship at Wellesley when the school thought to force its faculty to profess their fealty to the Christian faith).

Bates was a pacifist with the dream of uniting people “from the Pacific to the Atlantic, around the other way… and that will include all the…

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The Devil’s In The Details II–Keep Research from Taking Over

Some good thoughts on research and writing from Kristen Lamb. You can read the first part here: The Devil’s in the Details — Taking Your Fiction to Higher Level

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Screen Shot 2013-08-15 at 4.54.49 PM

All right, we’ll do Research Part Duh, um Deux. Last time we talked about how research can take a book to the next level and I also vented about my personal bugaboos when it comes to guns. But here’s the thing, our target audience is likely to have bugaboos as well.

If we write military books, we want military people to like them. But, if we fail to research even basic stuff, we can turn them off. Same with thrillers, historical and even SCI-FI, etc.

Part of the reason for Star Trek’s success was that Roddenberry refused for ST technology to be made up willy-nilly. All technology and “science” had to be based around and grounded in some salient scientific theory….so you can thank Star Trek for automatic doors, cell phones, iPads, and science is still working on hot green women. Apparently there are only so many writers engineers…

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We Were Not Alone

I’m oddly thrilled by the thought that I have Neanderthal DNA in me.

The Cuckoo Club Archives

It’s one of the great themes of storytelling: We Are Not Alone.

All over the world – in literature, mythology, folklore – is the idea that humans share the Earth (the Universe) with some other sentient being or beings.

Gods, nymphs, daevas; fairies, leprechauns, kelpies; trolls, yetis, dwarves.

Others.

There are eversomany much more than six billion of us on the planet now. Some of us read – and write – stories where humans explore the depths of the Universe in search of intelligent life. Some of us follow religions that suggest we are the progeny of divine beings who walk amongst us. And some of us are exploring the inner workings of what makes us human – DNA, the chemical building blocks of life – to come up with some surprising answers.

Hot on the heels of the earlier announcement that a Mesolithic person in…

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An A to Z of Non-Binary Genders

Reblogging

shattersnipe: malcontent & rainbows

So, here’s a thing that happened: Alex Dally MacFarlane had the temerity to suggest that non-binary gender is an actual thing that deserves to be represented in SFF, and certain persons lost their shit, citing a variety of ill-informed reasons that can basically be summarised as “non-binary gender doesn’t really exist, but if it did, we’d still think it was icky and unimportant, and also you’re just a liberal fascist trying to make us sympathise with imaginary humans as part of your nefarious agenda to destroy all men”. And as such persons are apparently incapable of performing a basic Google search before spouting bigoted nonsense all over the internet, I’ve decided to make things easy for them, and compile a handy A to Z of non-binary gender identities in the modern world and throughout history. This is by no means an exhaustive list; for a more comprehensive…

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Every Award-Winning Book Sucks (For Someone)

Whatever

As part of my occasional and hopefully instructive series of entries in which I try to make the point to writers that negative reviews are part of the territory and ultimately not something to get too worked up about or to let scar one’s psyche, I would like to present you excerpts of one star Amazon reviews of every single Hugo-winning novel of the last ten years (of which there are eleven, due to a tie in 2010). I would note that while I quote only one for each novel, in every case, there was more than one to choose from.

In chronological order:

2004:Paladin of Souls, Lois McMaster Bujold:

I hate it when I see an awesome author seem to get worse as they move on and write other series. I pushed through the first one, and did finish this one, but had to complain about the writing…

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AROW80 Check-In for January 8, 2014

Well, I posted a nice and long list of goals for this quarter on Monday and I have to admit, I haven’t worked on a blessed one of them in the days since. Which is sad considering that thanks to the weather I got an extra couple days off this week.  But, instead of writing, I spent that time relaxing (okay, napping) and kind of recharging my batteries.  And marathon-watching Rosemary and Thyme and Supernatural on Netflix.

I suppose I could make the case that watching Supernatural is kind of/sort of research for Butchers’ Bill, in the sense of seeing the kinds of tropes I want to play with when it comes to hunting supernaturals.  I already know that my vampire hunters aren’t much like Sam and Dean.  For one thing, they live in a world where the supernaturals in general and vampires in particular have been acknowledged as real for years.  And for another, in their world, vampire hunting is a legitimate career choice.  Not the kind of thing you necessarily want your kids to go into, but it’s a living. Watching Supernatural helps me center my world by making me ask myself questions about it and by letting me listen to my characters’ reactions to it (as admittedly woo as that sounds).

Plus, hey, Sam and Dean are hawt.  Not to mention Billy.  *fans self* Whooo!

It also helps that this is a bit of passive research/brainstorming I can do while I work on other things. And, again, the hawtness of the cast does not hurt.

Actual Writing Goals for this week:  I think for this week, at least until Sunday, I’m going to keep it simple and focus on only two goals.

  1. Defcon: Fade Out:
    1. Keep writing. I finished Chapter Ten and am in the middle of Chapter Eleven and I kind of hate what I’ve written but I’m just going to keep bulling through. I’ve got a feeling that Chapter Eleven will either end up on the cutting room floor or will be incorporated in earlier, but regardless it still needs to be written so I can get it out of my head and onto paper.
    2. Complete character checklists for at least two of my main characters as well as the worldbuilding checklists. One for a human/ape hybrid species and the other for a religious subgroup.  Luckily, I have checklists for all of these! I have checklists for EVERYBODY! AHAHHAHAHAHA!
  2. Reading Story Engineering and Story Physics by Larry Brooks. 

Powered by Linky Tools, A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. You can learn more here and if you want to join, you can Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

Lessons From A Failure: 5 Tipes To Help You Succeed in Your ROW80 By Shauntelle Hamlett

A Round of Words in 80 Days

2013 hasn’t been a good writing year for me.

It started with me failing at the first writing challenge I set for myself:  30 Days of “One Question” interviews.

I accomplished 15.

The streak continued through two sad attempts at ROW80, an incomplete month of “bad poetry” and, last, only because it’s most recent, a half-finished pass at my own version of NANOWRIMO.  I even managed to fail at writing three longhand Morning Pages, a basic journaling challenge for even the most inexperienced writer.

Me and Zig, Cup Half Full Kinda People

So you might be wondering:  “What kind of advice can this woman offer me on succeeding at my ROW80 when she hasn’t even succeeded at her own?”

The answer lies in the words of a brilliant man—Zig Ziglar, the father of Self Help—who once said:

“If you learn from defeat, you haven’t really lost.”

I’m here to…

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Gone But Not Forgotten, 2013 Edition

A Dispensable List of Comic Book Lists

21+ Comic-Related Professionals and Things We Said Goodbye to in 2013

carmine-infantino1. Carmine Infantino (b. 1925)
In the words of Wikipedia: “Carmine Michael Infantino was an American comic book artist and editor who was a major force in the Silver Age of Comic Books.” This is somewhat akin to saying Mount Everest is a slightly noticeable speed bump between Tibet and Nepal. Infantino was there at the beginning, providing the pencils for that 1956 issue of Showcase that would re-introduce the Flash to readers and jump-start DC’s second wave of superheroes (and Marvel’s, and every other company that got on the bandwagon). Before that landmark issue, he freelanced for all the major comic companies (and plenty of smaller ones) during the 1940s, co-creating the Black Canary for an issue of DC’s Flash Comics; after that issue, he went on to design the “New Look” Batman in the 1960s, got…

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Chapter Seven is Done!

(To the tune of “Pregnant Women are Smug” and with apologies to Garfunkel and Oats — video is not entirely safe for work due to some bad language):

Chapter Seven is Done!

It’s finally finished

I can’t believe it!

I kept putting it off

Because I’m lazy

and was doing other stuff

But I got it done tonight

And it didn’t take long,

And it’s pretty good.

For a rough draft

I mean really rough draft

There’s some stuff I should fix

And some things that don’t make sense yet

Ok, there’s a lot to fix

But there’s time to do that

when I’m typing it up

After this draft is finished

Because if I go back now

It’ll never get done.

So, Chapter seven is done!

It’s finally done!

It’s really done!

Now for Chapter Eight…

……

………

Chapter Eight has begun..

Time to play Candy Crush…

Insecure Writer’s Support Group

All writers face problems with insecurity; it’s not easy to spend hours, days, months or years creating something to send out into the world. When you’re in the middle of a project, when you’ve written yourself into a corner, it’s easy to get discouraged and say “Nope, I suck” and give up.  

Having other writers to talk to is a huge help.  Unfortunately, finding a writing group can be difficult.  Fortunately, these days we have the Internet! And on the Internet we have support groups like the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. 

And IWSG has a new website, which they’d like to make people aware of — and more importantly, they’d like to let people know about the twin benefits available at the ISWG site:

1 – It’s a database of information, focusing on major links, other databases, and resources for writers. Topics include writing tips; publishers, agents, and queries; self-publishing; marketing; contests; publications; and services. Each page is a wealth of information, leading to some of the top sites for authors, and we also post information to help writers every Monday. 

2 – The IWSG itself – the first Wednesday of every month is the official posting day for those with blogs. Members post their insecurities, frustrations, and concerns, and others stop by to offer encouragement and advice. The kindness and words of wisdom have kept writers going when they were ready to quit. Many have discovered solutions to their problems. Friendships have been forged and critique partners established. 

 

The IWSG is also running a contest to help them promote their new website. They’re offering a couple great prize packages. You can read more about it by clicking the above link.

A Helping Hand by Dawn Montgomery

Kathy’s Note: Reblogging this so I have a link I can refer back to when I am in the blues. Especially this line: You’re not a failure. You’re human.

Repeating: You’re not a failure. You’re human.

A Round of Words in 80 Days

“Help me” and “I don’t understand” are two of the hardest phrases to say when you feel really passionate about your book and writing career. We have this strange idea that saying these words to other writers will diminish how they see us.

“I’m discouraged” and “I don’t think I can do this” are two others that drag you into the depths of isolation. You shut yourself down and wonder why you decided to do it in the first place.

I wish I understood why we feel the need to shut ourselves away from others, but everyone does it.

Everyone. Does. It.

I’ve been writing for almost a decade now and I can’t tell you how many times I struggled and stared at my computer screen with despair. That inner editor whispered so many times how much of a failure I was. A fraud. Faking my way through the first…

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I don’t wanna go to work!

Which pretty much means this is a day ending in ‘y’ in which I am scheduled to work.  The snow is still on the ground, but the roads are passable, which is good because I don’t want to get stir crazy.

Just wanted to leave a quick note that I’m really enjoying checking the stats and seeing where people who post/visit this blog come from. Every time a new country pops up, I make a gleeful report to the girlfriend about it.  For someone who’s never been out of the contiguous United States, it’s exciting to me to be able to interact with people from around the world. So, thank you!