Short stories: what the hell?

In which I reveal all my flaws as a writer.

I read a very informative and helpful article on short story writing by David Farland this week. As everyone should, I have submitted a few stories to Writers of the Future, and one got an honorable mention last year. I write very few stories that are appropriate for the contest, as they demand a PG-13 rating, but I have submitted plenty of stories to the usual publications, and haven’t gotten much more than a few personal rejections (this is a good sign, but it’s not publication). Fortunately Farland’s blog post included usable information that writers can use to improve their stories, maybe even sell one. Continue reading “Short stories: what the hell?”

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Worldbuilder’s Disease: Oops, I Did It Again

In which I alienate writers who use index cards.

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Tools for writing this week: quotation mark sticky notes, D&D Player’s Handbook, and the ever-watchful Elsa.

Earlier this week I celebrated getting to the climactic chapter of my novel Firesage, where pregnant sorceress Elspyth Stonehouse, and her rival Bálarmos of Dwynhagen finally confront each other over her husband’s traitorous attempts to make the magical academy independent of their warlord king. Everything comes together in this chapter, and as written, I thought it was very exciting. The two groups of sorcerors clash on the grounds of the academy itself, along with a group of soldiers: there’s a huge conflagration, quite a bit of tragic drama, some heartbreak, and different magics that no one was expecting! On top of that it all starts out with an awesome catfight between Elspyth and another sorceress: an epic “Hands off my man!” leads to an all-out battle. Continue reading “Worldbuilder’s Disease: Oops, I Did It Again”

The Black Witch (Goodreads Review)

The Black Witch (The Black Witch Chronicles #1)The Black Witch by Laurie Forest

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclosure: I consider Laurie Forest a colleague. We both write epic fantasy and live in a small state with an active writing community. I have not received any material support from her, encouragement, or endorsement to write this review. I paid full price for my signed copy.

Elloren Gardner lives in a diverse magical world, but for many reasons, her uncle has sheltered her on his farm since she was a small child. She is the granddaughter of The Black Witch, a legendary sorceress who is regarded as a patriot and freedom fighter for her people, who all achieve some level of magical ability. Elloren’s curse is that despite her striking resemblance to her grandmother, her only magical ability is to find peace, comfort, and psychological communion with bits of wood. She’s a great violinist, but can’t even light a candle, and wouldn’t be allowed a wand. Continue reading “The Black Witch (Goodreads Review)”

Screenwriting advice (for novelists?)

In which I alienate still more people who liked Arrival

fadeinThe main thing I’ve been doing other than working toward the climax in the rewrite of Firesage is studying screenwriting. Since The Queen’s Night is on submission and people seem to like the characters (despite my efforts to make them horrible people bent on nothing but pleasure, power, and geometry) I have thought it would make a good movie. A lot of readers and writers think about their favorite books in a sort of filmic way, and when readers get their favorite books adapted, it’s a sort of validation. A lot of the heroic and dramatic can be succinctly expressed in film, and so a lot of us get our sense of the dramatic from the movie screen, and seeing our favorite story on that screen gives it a larger existence. So naturally I thought of adapting the movie myself, and learning about screenwriting in the process.

For a couple reasons, I don’t think I will even try. Continue reading “Screenwriting advice (for novelists?)”

Long Novels, Short Stories, and The Seat of My Pants

In which I alienate all of you who’ve published short stories

On Wednesday I finished the 1100-page It by Stephen King, the longest thing I’ve read since Cliver Barker’s Imajica almost two years ago.  I read it in about five weeks with a one-week break during my trip to Paris when I started Deborah A. Wolf’s The Dragon’s Legacy.  It was interesting to read mainly because it was at the top of my list of books by King that I’ve wanted to read for a long time.  I saw the ABC mini-series when I was a kid, taped it and watched it over and over, and always wanted to read the book.  Twenty seven years later (no joke) I found a paperback of it for $1 at Boskone, and as is always the case with King, I couldn’t put it down.

Of all the excellent aspects of this book, one thing in particular stood out to me as a writer: every side-note, every piece of background, every seemingly insignificant fact, has a central character.  There are passages throughout this book, told in an omniscient voice, as one would tell a ghost story around a campfire, where characters pop into existence only for telling the reader more about the history of Derry, or for the purpose of advancing the story, and nevertheless we learn a lot about that person even though he only lives for a few seconds.  Which characters are central is very clear, never in doubt, but these characters who are not even side characters all have their own lives and histories and connections to different parts of the story.  They are not functionaries, they are not useless page filler, and they are not the two-dimensional oddities of Gravity’s Rainbow. Continue reading “Long Novels, Short Stories, and The Seat of My Pants”

Content and Style: The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu

In which I alienate the people most likely to buy my book.

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Atwood at the 2015 Texas Book Festival; photo by Larry D. Moore

Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite authors, and The Handmaid’s Tale is one of my favorite books, so I was pretty excited when I heard Hulu was adapting it into a series. Of course, I also had my trepidation. I don’t care much whether an adaptation fails or succeeds, but my expectations for adaptations these days are pretty low. Nevertheless it’s nice to see such an excellent book advertised and interpreted.  I watched the first episode last night and found myself thinking I would rather be re-reading the book.  If you were confused or disappointed by the episodes you’ve seen, read the book.

Continue reading “Content and Style: The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu”

The Nifty, Geeky Story

In which I alienate the entire sci-fi short story readership, fellowship, and mothership.

Arrival_Movie_PosterI just got back from Paris. Yes, I’m fancy. It was great, thanks for asking. I wrote a short story while I was there (which, given what I’m about to tell you, probably will never get published). On the way back I got to watch two recent sci-fi movies and I found them interesting to compare, particularly given my previous arrogance about “entertainment” (he said disdainfully), I was surprised which one I enjoyed more. Continue reading “The Nifty, Geeky Story”

Crunchy Complexity

WoT01_TheEyeOfTheWorldIn which I alienate Robert Jordan fans and Harry Potter fans in one swell foop.

The other night in our writing group at the Fairlee Public Library I read a passage from my novel-in-progress Firesage. I spent a little time building up the world for my fellows, then read the passage. I explained that the sorcerers who are the main characters live in an academy, and a little bit about the scheming that is tearing it apart. I almost forgot to mention that the main character is pregnant. That wasn’t so important for the passage I read, but it’s most of the basis of the conflict in the novel. I didn’t stop and fill in the background as I went along, because the passage was a flashback to a time before the novel begins, when the main character was “discovered” in a different setting than the one I had just explained. Continue reading “Crunchy Complexity”

Worldbuilder’s Disease: Writer’s Block with a Twist

In which I alienate my writer friends…

roadblockYou’d think in a trade built on putting words together, most of the practitioners would be people who can put words together on the spur of the moment, always have something to say, and can work under any circumstances. Actually no. Most writers I know have a horrible time doing that. They get distracted, they have no idea what to say, or they just don’t enjoy it at all. My wife, for example, writes beautiful prose, and has a great facility with metaphors and similes, but when she sits down to write (if she does), very little comes out. This is a fairly common experience. It’s not just that writing is not her main thing. She has a very stressful job, and listens to people all day, and doesn’t have a lot of time to just walk the dog and think about stuff to write. Even when she has time to write, she has a lot of trouble. I have a hard time relating. If I have time to write, I will write. Continue reading “Worldbuilder’s Disease: Writer’s Block with a Twist”

Let’s Get Serious!

In which I alienate Phish fans

What is it that makes readers connect? Sincerity and honesty. The kind of sincerity I’m talking about might be called being “serious” but as Alan Watts pointed out, the word “serious” has a sort of dry unfunniness about it, and that isn’t what I’m getting at. Fantasy literature in particular has this problem, much less than it used to, that it’s hard to take seriously a book about wizards and dragons. Ursula LeGuin seems to have eventually convinced everyone to take such books seriously, but not without plenty of books getting written to convince people otherwise. Wizards and dragons sound like childish topics, until you read Gene Wolfe, Stephen R. Donaldson, or dare I say Robert Jordan?

Continue reading “Let’s Get Serious!”