Nov 24

Cool article on how medieval books were protected from theft

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Nov 22

Ed Greenwood DMing a game with several authors as players

And it’s as awesome as you would think it is:

(The actual thing starts around 14 minutes in, intros are done at around 32 minutes in.)

I assume, given that you’re reading my blog, that I don’t need to mention this, but just in case you need the warning:  there are bad words and references to sex.

I was going to say just how incredible and amusing this was, but words don’t do it justice.  It’s a D&D game run by one of my favorite authors — in the setting he created which I consider the best fantasy setting ever — with other authors I like a lot (and others I have on my “to read” list) as the players.  Basically, in my opinion it was guaranteed to be several hours of geeky fun, and it was.

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Nov 19

How my reading plan for 2015 fared

In a moment of being extremely OCD last year, I started writing reading plans . . . lists of books I was going to be reading on specific days, like so:


Monday:  Classic SF:  Book B

Tuesday:  Rereads:  Book C

and so on, with the last list being non-fiction that I could read whenever I wanted to.

I kept this up even after realizing it was a dumb idea.  With the iteration I made in January, I gave myself permission to not stick to the plan.  Seriously, it said so on the plan.

Eventually, I realized this was a rather stupid thing to do.

So, how much progress did I make through this list of 45 books?

Not much, it turns out:

In the books I was going to review list, I read one, didn’t finish a second, and am still reading a third.

In  the classic science fiction list, I misplaced one book and never started the others.

In the rereads list, I never got past page, like, 30, in the first one.

In the classic fantasy list, I forgot I was reading the first one and never read the rest.

In the Forgotten Realms list — yes, my favorite fantasy setting got it’s own day — oh, that’s kind of neat.  Totally forgetting about this list, I started reading the first thing on this list a couple of weeks ago.

In the Anne/Little House list, I forgot I was re-reading Anne of Avonlea and never started the others.  Also, I discovered I could probably do with a new copy of Anne of Avonlea.  The one I’ve had for about twenty-five years is not in very good shape.  Hard to read a book when you’re worried about the pages falling out and/or crumbling.

In the fantasy list, I didn’t finish the first book and, you guessed it, never started the rest.

In the “other” list, I misplaced the first book and . . . yeah, never started the rest.

In the non-fiction list, I quit reading the first and will start it again sometime when I can concentrate on just it.  I, yep, never started the rest.

So what did I read this year?  (ignoring the fact that there’s still a month left in the year :P)

Not much, honestly.  At least, not many books.  I read lots of samples and excerpts, adding lots of books to my “to read” list.  I read most of the original GI Joe Real American Hero issues and every new issue to come out this year.  I read all of Dumbing of Age early in the year and have kept up with it since.  I continued religiously reading Questionable Content, and re-read it from the very beginning at one point (or that might’ve been at the end of last year, I can’t recall).  For several months I regularly read a couple of royal fashion blogs I’d been reading for years, until I decided my morning list of websites to check had gotten too time consuming and, well, they were the least interesting so they were what I cut.  I’ve also read lots of various news articles, blogposts, interviews, Twitter conversations, Facebook posts, bits and pieces of rpg books, some fanfic, etc.  This is why next year I won’t be doing the Reading Challenge thing on Goodreads.  It’s depressing to spend as much time as I do reading and see “28 out of 100” for how many books I’ve read this year.  Yeah, so maybe I have only read 28 whole books, but what about those five short stories that didn’t have entries?  That 70,000 word Doctor Who/GI Joe crossover fanfic that I really want the author to finish?  That almost novella length work-in-progress of Jaye’s?  That awesome blogpost by an author I love that was longer than most short stories?  That one issue of Uncanny X-Men I re-read on a whim?  That webcomic I read from beginning to end?  All those books I read the samples of but couldn’t afford right then?  It’s dumb for those not to count as things I’ve read.

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Nov 16

Some rambly thoughts on treating writing like any other job and the American work ethic

WARNING:  I get political in this one.  I’m not willing to argue politics, so if you’re of the opinion that the American work ethic is obviously the best thing in the universe, just stop reading here and save us both a headache, please?  Also, I’m not willing to debate the existence of talent, or the role luck played in the success of J. K. Rowling or any other famous author.

There are two commonly given bits of writing advice that are directly contradictory:

  1. You have to treat writing like any other job and put in your x hours/y words a day.  (X is usually 8 and y, 2000, I’ve noticed.)
  2. You have to accept you’re unlikely to ever be able to quit your day job and write full time and squeeze writing in when you can, even if it’s just five minutes a day.

First, contradictions like this amuse the hell out of me by proving very well why no writing advice should be given as absolutes.  Second, I realized just how fucking much is wrong with the first of those.

Writing — and when I use writing herein I mean the sort that goes into creating works of fiction; I am well aware there are other forms of writing, but it would be awkward to state “creative writing of fiction” every fucking time, okay? — isn’t like a normal, eight hours a day, five days a week, job.  If my wife is having one of those days where your brain just won’t fully engage at her day job, yeah, her performance suffers, but she can still do her job.  If she’s having one of those when she tries to write, nothing is going to happen.  Yeah, yeah, I know:  Writer’s block is always laziness and all that bullshit.  No.  I don’t believe in the quasi-mystical “the Muse isn’t visiting today” sort I see so many wannabe authors talking about, but not being able to write because your brain has put up an “Out Of Order” sign?  That’s a real thing that happens.  (Patrick Rothfuss had some interesting things to say about this and the statistical likelihood of writers having mood disorders here.  Sorry I can’t remember where exactly.  And that is the right video, despite what the title is.  Somebody goofed.)  Along those same lines, I read a blogpost recently — can’t find it right now, unfortunately — that said something like “No one tells an artist they have to paint/draw/sculpt every single day or their not serious about their craft; yet people say that to authors all the time.”  Why do people treating writing differently than any other art?

I, honestly, think that comes from things like NaNoWriMo and other things and people that encourage the “Anyone can be a novelist!” idea.  There’s nothing out there claiming that even I, who can’t draw a decent stick figure, could be the next Andy Warhol, yet I see things all the time claiming that — so long as a person sits down and puts in their x hours/y words a day — they could be the next Stephen King or J. K. Rowling.  So the question remains, what’s the difference?

There shouldn’t be one.  All arts should be treated the same.  Why isn’t writing?  I think it’s for a variety of reasons:

  1. It’s too easy to conflate writing — the putting of words on paper, with creative writing — the putting of words on paper in a way which tells a story
  2. Rowling started out a poor, single parent and now is a millionaire.  We want to believe that we can reach her level of success, despite the fact that rags-to-riches stories have always been the exception instead of the norm.
  3. Related to #2, we want to believe she had to work her ass off for her success, because otherwise the whole American (or Protestant or Calvinist, whatever you want to call it) work ethic gets called into question.  Luck and talent can’t possibly have been factors, in fact they can’t even exist!
  4. We have a cultural obsession with quantifying things.

I’m going to pull the third point out and expand on it.  The American work ethic, as I’m using the term here, refers to the idea that hard work is the only path to success — success here generally equalling “having tons of money and stuff”, and that therefore it’s admirable to always be working as hard as you can, at the expense of such silly things as family life and happiness.   Yes, I am saying that the American work ethic is inherently the same thing as being a workaholic.  By the standards of most of the world, Americans are all workaholics.  See point 2 on this page.  And I’m including myself in this.  I feel terribly guilty when I go too long without writing, even when I know I couldn’t have been writing.  Why?  Because it’s my job, so I’m supposed to put in 8 hours a day, 5 days a week at the absolute minimum, or I’m utterly failing at being an adult.  I know this is total bullshit, but the idea is that fucking pervasive in our culture!  So of course Rowling, King, GRRM, etc. have to have slaved away for hour after tedious hour, day after day, year after year, before they reached where they are now.

Now, to some extent that’s probably true.  I’ve said before, and I’ll never stop saying, that generally the first thing you write shouldn’t be published.  But luck is a factor in what succeeds and what doesn’t.  Remember, Rowling was rejected by lots of publishers because she was writing in a dead genre — the boarding school adventure thing.  Then the first book only got a very limited release.  Luck got it noticed by the right people to win an award and from there it spread.  Yes, if it hadn’t been good in the first place this wouldn’t have happened.  I’m not saying luck is the only factor in success, I’m just saying that denying it is factor is fucking stupid.

Tied up in the work ethic stupidity, is the idea that you shouldn’t be enjoying the act of writing.  Guys, if you aren’t enjoying it more often than not, quit doing it.  Writing doesn’t pay well enough, unless you get stupendously lucky, to do it if you’re not enjoying it.  Yeah, there are always bits you’ll just have to stubborn your way through, but if the whole book is that way?  Find something else to do and quit making yourself miserable.  I know, I know, lots of you want to have written a book.  You want that marked off your “bucket list”.  Here’s the thing:  it’s not that fucking cool a thing to have done.  It means you strung word after word into something that tells a story, that’s all.  If that’s really fucking hard for you to do, then let it go.  Though if you could explain to me why our non-reading culture places so much praiseworthiness on having written a book, please do.

(For more on the work ethic thing, I highly recommend the article I linked to earlier.)

As for talent, all I’ve got to say is that I do believe it exists, but I don’t believe it’s the only factor in whether or not an author — or any sort of artist for that matter — is any good.

Now I’m going to tackle point 4, which is actually what I thought most of this post would be about when I started writing it.  It’s always confused me how anyone thinks you can quantify the amount of time a writer spends writing.  I mean, engaged in the actual putting down words bit, sure.  But writing is ever so much more than that!  And being a professional author certainly is!

Look at my day, for instance:

I woke up with fragments of two different dreams still in my head that might have made interesting stories.  One was like Pitch Perfect crossed with Bring It On and started with an attempted murder.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t recall enough of it to say more than that so I quickly dismissed it as something worth trying to turn into a story.  The other had a really neat cultural element in the group of elves it was about though it had no plot, so I did jot down some notes about it and am trying to figure out what to do with that element. Does this mean that the amount of time I spent having those dreams counts towards working hours today?  The time I spent writing the notes down?  What about the time I spent trying to recall more of the first dream?

I favorited some things said by some of my favorite authors on Twitter.  Some count this as networking that is essential for “growing my brand.”  So does it count as time spent working, even though I’d be following the same people even if I weren’t a writer myself (and even though two of the tweets I favorited were kitten pictures)?

I randomly started pondering the two statements at the beginning of this post while making a cup of tea.  Does the time I spent pondering them count as time spent working today, since it led to a blogpost and keeping this blog is, supposedly, a professional activity?  (Even though apparently lots of agents and publishers are starting to say “Yeah, we were wrong.  Social media presence and blogs aren’t as important for getting readers as we’ve been saying for the past few years.  Keep one if you want, but it’s not a crucial bit of our marketing plan any more.”  Hence me being less concerned about being professional here than I used to be, hence being more political.)

I’ve spent about three hours writing this post, interspersed with reading more of that article I linked to.  Since, as I said above, this blog is supposedly a part of my marketing plan, do those three hours count as hours spent working?

After dinner, I probably am going to spend some time revising the next chapter of No More Lies. Not because I need to.  I did as much revising yesterday as usually takes me two days, so I’m a bit ahead this week.  But I want to.  I like the next bit, and I’m getting tired of having the damned book hanging over my head, distracting me from other things I want to work on, so I’m trying to get a chapter a day done so I can be done with this draft and let it sit for a few months while I concentrate on something else.  This is the only bit of my day that inarguably counts as working.

I might work some more on the megadungeon I’ve been making with the random charts in the back of the 1st edition Dungeon Master’s Guide tonight, which was supposed to be just something I was doing to stave off boredom one recent rainy day but has, of course because I’m me, begun to grown into a whole fantasy setting.  I’ve been considering setting my fantasy travelogue idea in this setting, so does time spent rolling random room sizes and wondering what Gary Gygax was smoking and why no one took his goddamned thesaurus away count as time spent working?

Well, I’m done rambling now.  I’m not sure this actually makes any sense, but I’m pretty sure I’ve got some good and/or interesting points interspersed with my babbling, so I’m posting it any way.

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Oct 31

NaNoWriMo Starts Tomorrow

And I’m a little sad not to be doing it.  I know I wrote a whole blogpost about why I’m not doing it, but still, I miss it.  I miss the competitiveness of it all mostly, I think.  The competition with myself mostly, the trying to beat my last five minute word war word count and shit like that.

And that’s the problem, ultimately. Writing shouldn’t be a race to see how many words you can get written in x amount of time.  It takes nothing besides being able to type fast to do that.  Writing always should be about what the words are, not how many there are.

Yes, I have a weekly word count goal.  But that’s trying to establish a habit.  It’s the difference in running a race and running every morning for the health benefits.  (Not really  an exaggeration, by the way.  My mental health is better when I’m writing regularly.)

And I forget what else I was going to say.  Damn.  So, happy Halloween!

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Oct 29

Long term writing updates

I was looking through some old blogposts, on a different site so don’t go looking for them here, that were writing related updates.  I thought it could be amusing/interesting to revisit these old updates and see what became of these stories.  And then I decided to do the same to one from here from last year, because I’m kind of bored and feeling utterly uninspired to write:

From November 4, 2011 (No change meant I hadn’t touched them in a month.  Reference to puppy is because I had a nine week old puppy at the time, so writing had obviously gotten complicated.):

1) Once A Hero (Bobby and Viktor go to buy brandy and end up saving the world): rejected as of yesterday. Driving self insane trying to decide whether to try a couple of other places first or epublish. Realizing that I can’t remember the last time I bought a short story magazine — oh, wait, I can, well over a decade ago, before I had internet — is making me lean more towards epublishing. After all, if I’d never see it, it’s probably safe to assume other people who’d like it wouldn’t see it if it was in a magazine either, right?

Self-published, then revised heavily and re-published.  Available from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, DriveThruFiction, Smashwords, and iBooks.  I still have that “Why am I bothering?” feeling every time I submit a story to a short story magazine, but I do it because self-published short stories don’t sell.  At least not in sci-fi.  At least not without spending more marketing them than I have.

2) How Bobby and Karen Met (Three guesses what it’s about): a bit farther along than last month, but between puppy and illness, no progress for weeks.

Renamed No More Lies and should be published somehow sometime in the next year or so.

3) Viktor’s Life Story (I suck at titles): no change

Abandoned after about the fifth failed attempt.

4) Thingy Based On Early Universal Nexus Gaming (soap operatic/action-adventure/slice-of-life stories in a space opera universe): no change

Abandoned because what makes an interesting game does not necessarily make a good story.

5) Fantasy Story (Dude is the first elven magi in a very long time): no change

Abandoned because of that fucking voice of doubt I’ve blogged about before.

6) Tales From The Sword & Scroll Tavern (alien is collecting stories from people at a bar): no change

Reworked into stand alone short stories, most of which I’ve posted here under the “short stories” category.  Still love my frame story and hope I can find some other purpose for it.

7) Visiting Earth (Vik and family visit Earth and encounter difficulties with customs): got some proofreading done on what’s written of this so far, at least.

Abandoned because it was becoming too formulaic and dull.

8) The Fall Of Drochslem, Book One (the tale of how Viktor came to be Drochslem’s slave and his time as a slave): now stuck because I can think of two different, completely incompatible ways to do the next chapter, and have decided to wait until I’m fully over this damned cold to decide.

I have two half-written blog posts explaining why this might never be finished.  If you’re curious, remind me to finish one of those.

9) Lance and Jasmine Drabble Series (a story told in a collection of drabbles about Jazz’s first visit to Lance’s family): no change

Posted here under the “Short stories” category.

10) Jake’s Last Mission (Jake’s ship encounters a Mugdaran ship whose captain doesn’t feel that the war is actually over): no change

Self-published.  Available in ebook form from AmazonKoboBarnes & NobleDriveThruFictionSmashwords, and iBooks, and in print from CreateSpaceAmazonPowell’sBarnes & Noble, and BookDepository.  Also an expanded version based on the original novella that will have a different title that I haven’t decided on yet is currently being written and will be out . . . let’s call it a year after No More Lies for now.

From October 29, 2012:

1)  Story I started Thursday is already at 7,100 words.  My longest completed work is only 7,600 or 7,700 words.  I’m not sure how this much word count has happened, but I’m quite liking it.  Pretty much know how the story is going to end now, just got to get there.  Not sure how much more will happen be betwixt now and then.

I’ve explained elsewhere what I learned from that first NaNoWriMo experience, and that that story is presently being rewritten as two different stories.  My longest completed work now is around 120,000 words.  And 7100 words in five days is on the low end of average for me now.  The story I’m talking about there, by the way, ended up around 40,000 words.

2)  Since I’ve discovered that I am, apparently, capable of writing a thousand plus words a day, I’ve been considering doing NaNoWriMo to force myself to work on a superhero idea that’s been in the back of my head for some time.  It’d be in a “Not City of Heroes, honest, I swear!” setting.  Until I revise it.  Then it will probably end up something so different that even I can’t always remember what was originally what, like Universal Nexus has.

Thousand plus words a day?!  Yeah, if I don’t hit 2000 any day I write now, I start trying to figure out what’s wrong, with the story or myself.   I never have done that supers idea.  Or that other one I came up with.  Or the third one.  Hmmm . . . maybe when I finish or abandon one of my current projects, I’ll tackle that genre.

3)  I keep seeing people saying things like “My finished novel will be about 100,000 words”.  I am confused.  How do you know how long something will be until you write it?  I expected the story from point 1 to be 1,000 to 2,000 words, based on how long most stories based on my first thing in the morning ideas turn out, but as I had no clue where it was going to end at the time, I’m not really surprised it’s ended up longer.

I think I’m getting better at tailoring my ideas to be certain lengths by choosing what to focus on.  That said, there’s a bit of wishful thinking in the lengths on my progress bars.  I’d rather write shorter works because then I can move on to new ideas sooner.  I’ve got to start writing and editing faster!

4)  What is the correct etiquette when a work by someone else directly inspires something you write and publish?  It’s not fanfic, just a phrase in a novel I read that led to a short story in Universal Nexus.  Free copy?

I actually asked someone in publishing about that, and was told that, yes, that is the polite etiquette.  So the inspirer was sent a copy both times this happened.

From August 8, 2013 (since I seem to have skipped doing one of these for several months after this) (comments from today in red because I got tired of arguing with WordPress over formatting):

(Yes, this IS supposed to go in my professional blog. But it’s not working right now for no reason that I can think of.)
I don’t think I ever figured out what was up that day.

Welcome to a new, (supposedly) regularly scheduled feature where I tell you all about everything I’m currently writing. Except the stuff I forget to put on the list because, yes, I have THAT many works in progress.

The list:

1) Retaking Vindoc:

Status: This is so far all of 301 words long, but I’m sure it’ll be awesome if I ever figure out where I’m going with it.

Synopsis: Nearly fifteen years ago, the Daggers, a group of rebels-for-hire, failed to help the people of Vindoc avoid being forcibly removed from their world when the Terran Confederation decided to repurpose it. Today, they and some of the rebels have a plan to take it back.

First line: There were tears in Darrien Hawke’s eyes, tears he refused to let fall, as he boarded the last Dagger ship leaving Vindoc.

Totally forgot about it.  Not sure why I listed something that was only 301 words.  If I counted everything I’d gotten that far on as a work-in-progress, that’d be a hell of a list.  Is an interesting idea.  Might revisit it some day.

2) Vengeance:

Status: This story is driving me batty. I know what happens, more or less, but WHEN is being a bitch to figure out. So far, I’ve had to rewrite the first chapter twice, and it needs a third rewrite, JUST because I changed my mind about when it’s set. Then I realized that a big part of the problem is that the prologue and the first chapter are set at least a year apart, actually. EVENTUALLY this will get written. Probably. Hopefully.

Synopsis: Five years ago (Or however many it ends up being!), a group of Daggers rescued Serena from the clutches of the nefarious Dr. Greenbriar. Greenbriar’s work was set back many years in the process, and the High Chancellor of Anerix started watching his head scientist much more closely. Now Greenbriar has hired an old friend to deal with the Daggers who were involved, before going after Serena herself again.

First line: Janoke Greenbriar grinned as he read the report an aide had brought him a nulair earlier.

Abandoned, for the moment.  The ending of Stolen Time sets up a sequel.  This was to have been that sequel.  But it’s been constantly plagued by various timeline issues.  Basically finding a time when all the characters we want to be involved can be involved has proven impossible.  I have some vague ideas though, and might discuss these with Jaye later.

3) Jake’s Last Mission:

Status: I either dreamed an editing pass happened that didn’t, or I somehow completely didn’t save a copy after ANY edits were made. And as my word processor of choice autosaves, I don’t see how that could have happened. So, it needs more work than I thought. Bummer.

Synopsis: Mithoska Jake Kavaliro is ready to retire. He’s been commanding the Defesa Lâmina since before some of it’s current crew were born. Unfortunately, on his last patrol he runs into a Mugdaran ship that’s commander wants to restart a war that’s been over for twenty-five years. And the Mugdaran emperor has just died and there’s a group trying to convince the new emperor to go to war with Sweytz — the world Jake is from — already. And that’s just the biggest problem he’s dealing with.

First line: The klaxons blared, awakening Mithoska Jake Kavaliro from his sleep

Already talked about.

4) Bobby Immigrates To Anerix:

Status: This has been stuck for ages and really, I’ve already written the most interesting part of it, I think, so I don’t know if it’ll ever be finished.

Synopsis: Bobby Kavaliro is fifteen and, in his own words, has nothing going for him except “a gorgeous girlfriend and a warhero father”. So, sick of living in the shadow of his older sister and his father, he decides to immigrate to Anerix, a world that’s not a dictatorship because it’s High Chancellor says so in his speeches. Seriously. When his parents refuse to give permission, he pisses off just about everyone important to him. Then he runs away. Then he discovers that the only thing he’s qualified to do is join the infantry.

First line: I was fifteen.

Didn’t work well as a story.  Relevant bits were incorporated into exposition in No More Lies.

5) Bobby Meets Karen:

Status: This was going along quite smoothly when I suddenly got hit by inspiration for another story which kind of took over my brain. As I don’t want to smack the characters in the other story nearly as often as I do Bobby, it’s more fun to write.

Synopsis: Bobby Kavaliro is now one of the Anerix military’s assassins (which don’t exist, honest, it says so right on this document here). As far as they know, anyway. He’s actually been a deep cover spy for the past few years, and the pressure is starting to get to him. He meets a beautiful woman on vacation, they fall in love, and . . . this one is hard to summarize. It’s a love story. It’s just a love story involving a ninja/assassin/spy/total fucking moron so it gets . . . complicated.

First line: This is exactly what I needed, I thought, leaning back against a tree in Thil Park on Sarglerich and starting to tune my loothin.

Already talked about.

6) Untitled Fantasy Story:

Status: I’ve had the idea for the bit with the demon summoning and the final fight with the bigass demon for about seven years now, and have had the bit with the elf dude written for about two, but can’t seem to get any of the rest of it to take shape. It’s getting frustrating. Every time I think I know what happens next, something distracts me before I can get pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and it gets lost.

Synopsis: Dude is the first elven mage in a very, very long time. Baddies are about to summon a very nasty demon. Elf dude directed by goddess of magic to a party she’s led into the forest. They don’t get to the baddies in time. Rest of book (series?) going to be about fighting demonic forces, culminating in a showdown with the very nasty demon.

First line: ”All smoke and no substance.”

Already talked about.  What’s bugging me, now, is the number of things I kept on this list for two years without touching at all.  Self, when you haven’t touched something in two fucking years, it’s no longer a work-in-progress!

7) The Fall of Drochslem, possibly book one of a multibook thingy:

Status: This is dark, and depressing, and I’m really not sure I ever want to write it and don’t just want to, instead, mention it in other things because while what happens here is a very, very big part of why Vik is the way he is in later stories, I think it would take some of the . . . something . . . away from him to actually detail what broke his mind, instead of leaving it vague. But, on the other hand, it seems wrong some how to NOT write something that I’ve already made five attempts at. Though this could just be clear proof that I really don’t understand the words “Give up.”

Synopsis: The situation in Vorton is worse than the Daggers expected, and what they expected was already terrible. Very quickly, Viktor Blue finds himself stabbed in the heart by a Dichidian warbeast, then captured from the hospital, and then enslaved by the Dichidian Warlord Drochslem. While there, he’s beaten, starved, and forced to witness people being eaten alive. He escapes, but his sanity is pretty much gone. A couple of years later, not as recovered as tries to convince himself he is, against the advice of just about everyone, including his psychiatrist, he goes back to Dichid with an invasion force and is personally responsible for Drochslem’s death — while very nearly causing his own, and his sanity takes another blow.

First line: ”Run, Lance!”

Already talked about.

8) Tales From The Sword & Scroll Tavern:

Status: I wrote most of this years ago now. Some of the stories are on the website already. Some are being reworked into longer stories. I love my frame story and would still love to do something with it, so I might just take the frame story and write new stories to fit it, maybe salvaging a couple from the old version that can be saved with a bit of revising. Or I might just go “Well, it was a good idea, too bad it fell apart.” I don’t know.

Synopsis: Yugovians don’t tend to leave their world, except for those Called to be Travellers. Travellers travel around, collecting stories which they then bring home to tell the other Yugovians. This is a collection of the stories one Traveller picked up in The Sword & Scroll Tavern, one of the finest taverns on Sweytz, an excellent place to collect all kinds of stories as it is frequented by Daggers, Special Forces guys, and spacers from three galaxies, courtesy of the wormholes near Sweytz and the tavern’s diverse liquor selection.

First line: It was a very cold evening when I disembarked from my craft at the Delthakk spaceport.

Already talked about.

9) Lance Picks Up A Stray:

Status: I’m still not quite sure what I want to do with this one, but I did get an idea a few days ago to rework it to be more about the young space rat and then make it the first book in a series about him. So I might try that.

Synopsis: Captain Lancelot Reddige, former orphaned space rat, now commander of an elite unit tries to help out a young space rat, who reminds him very much of himself at that age by giving him some money. He ends up inadvertently getting the kid in trouble. Feeling very bad about this, and discovering that the kid has been very badly mistreated by a past benefactor, he takes the kid in, and the kid learns to trust again. Eventually, the kid ends up offered a position on Lance’s daughter’s pirate ship, which is pretty much the boy’s dream come true. And a bunch of other shit happens that’s not relevant to this so I really probably should just cut it unless I can incorporate it more smoothly.

First line: ”Where did you get this from?!” said a gruff, angry voice from the food stand Lance was passing.

This is that first NaNoWriMo project, so already talked about.

10) Tapestry of Life/Life in the Tri-Galaxies (There’s a bit of disagreement between my husband and I over which is a better title. I think Tapestry of Life sounds like a different genre altogether than slice-of-life stories in a space opera setting.):

Status: Jaye and I both want to work on editing this, alas never at the same time. So progress is not happening. Though she did write some intro bits the other day.

Synopsis: It’s a short story collection. It’s mostly random vignettes and other such “too short to not feel bad charging people for” things. These vary quite a bit, being everything from a tale of two people realizing they were in love — two tales, actually, one from each young woman’s perspective, to a tale of Bobby Kavaliro and his best friend ending up in a bar owned by an ex-girlfriend/fuckbuddy (depending on which one you ask) of his who wants him dead, to the tale of someone losing her parents at a very young age to Dichidians.

First line: The little family sat beside the river trying to catch fish.

Most of the stories in this are somewhere on the website . . . and most of them that I haven’t already posted on this blog specifically aren’t in good enough shape for me to want to link to them.  Some of them are so rough that Jaye and I have discussed taking them down completely.  If I had less on my plate, maybe I’d edit them and do the short story collection or collections thing.

11) Second Kavaliro Cousins book:

Status: Over 11,000 words in and I realized I started in the wrong spot and cut 9,000 words. Then, before I could write any more, I was questing in Ashenvale and suddenly realized I was going about things all wrong and totally losing the space fantasy feel of the first book. So it’s been started over.

Synopsis: The rewrite isn’t far enough long yet for me to really know what’s going on.

First line: Polthaina had been attacked by enemies so often in its long history that the entirety of the world was covered in ruins.  

I did a whole blogpost about why I abandoned this not so long ago.

12) War Games:

Status: I’m wondering if I’ll actually write this, because I’ve got vague disconnected scenes, most not even worthy of being called a vignette, but no real concept of what’s going on. I’d make it a drabble series, but the first bit is perfect as is and it’s 202 words.

Synopsis: The Sweytian Defense Force Special Forces and the Daggers in war games against each other. I’m pretty sure the main focus will be on Lyndsey Kavaliro-Blue, Dagger, and her boyfriend, Rusark I-Can’t-Remember-His-Last-Name-Right-Now, Sweytian Defense Force Special Forces officer, being competitive. And horny.

First line: Both men would’ve rather been back on Sweytz, talking this over at The Sword and Scroll Tavern.

I decided to combine it with #17 in this list.

13) Untitled supers story

Status: Not started, as I get teary-eyed over missing City of Heroes every time I try to start still.

Synopsis: Good guys versus bad guys! Yeah, I might need to do a little planning here.

Already talked about.

14) Bobby Meets Kira

Status: This depends on where I end Bobby Meets Karen. If it goes to when he’s working on the dojo on Sweytz, then this’ll be rewritten to fit in it, as it’s in third person and Bobby Meets Karen is in first. If not, then this just needs an editing pass or two before going up on the website.

Synopsis: Bobby Kavaliro meets one of his fellow ninja’s hot young fiancée. In typical Bobby fashion, he says something stupid and pays for it.

First line: “Yum.”

I can’t remember if I’ve posted this one or not.  If not, I should clean it up and do so.  It’s fairly amusing, as I recall.

15) Thingy in need of a title

Status: I just started it the other day, and it’s not a very high priority since it’s not something I’ve really got a clear idea for yet.

Synopsis: Universal Nexus has been the setting of my tabletop rpg for many years. Most of that time has actually been spent playing the more “Day in the life” type stuff, often enough that I sometimes describe the game as “a sitcom in a space opera setting”. I’ve always wanted to do a story more reflective of that, but couldn’t think of a focus and not having a focus was just far, far too chaotic. Well, this combined with some ranting I was doing about there not being any slice-of-life sf (I’ve since found some, so I’ll amend this to not much), led to me deciding to write a slice-of-life story that just happens to be in a space opera setting. I chose a character who’s space opera level awesome — in music, and his immediate family. Richie’s a very talented young man struggling to balance being a stay-at-home dad to two rather hyper little girls with trying to further his music career. His wife, a xenoanthropologist and xenoarchaeologist is pregnant with their third child. His husband is a masseuse who goes back and forth on whether or not he wants to give it up and become a full-time musician.

First line: Somewhere out there in the tri-galaxies, one of Richie’s older sisters was fighting to free a world from tyranny.

Reworked into one of the viewpoints in Intertwined Lives, my possibly permanently on hiatus serial.  I’ve considered writing a Richie novel from a different point in his life, but I don’t have any concrete ideas yet.

16) Kristark’s Coronation

Status: Complete. Needs an editing pass before posting.

Synopsis: It’s the coronation of the Mugdaran emperor from Jake’s Last Mission.

First line: “Kristark Zadeem Hulvim kir Pladeen, I, Ziran Fithin kir Zixat, the traditional leader of the Velmin clan, approve you as Emperor,” the aged Mugdaran man said, bowing his head deeply and then returning to his seat.

Included at the back of Jake’s Last Mission, to the complaint of some reviewers who felt it added nothing, clearly not getting that it was just a fucking related short story that I was including for free, not another bit of that story!

17) Rusark and Lyn

Status: Stuck because Lyndsey wants to describe herself in a very Sue-ish fashion, and I won’t let her. And because I jinxed it by posting about how well it was going.

Synopsis: It’s a love story between the Sweytian Defense Force Special Forces new martial arts instructor and a member of Darrien’s Daggers who is infamous among the SDFSF guys for her comments insulting them.

First line: I sat down at the kista table opposite one of the most beautiful women I’d ever seen. 

want to write this.  It was partially included in Intertwined Lives, but I think I only got one of Rusark’s chapters up.  I think the problem is that Rusark just isn’t that interesting a viewpoint character, and Lyndsey is so egotistical that it’s hard to write from her viewpoint without feeling like I’m writing a Mary Sue.  Which I just realized is a fucking stupid reason to avoid writing a story.  So this is officially the next project on my to do list.  It, then the supers story.

18) The Art Exhibit

Status: Possibly complete. I’m not really sure. It’s one of those “Fine, characters, since you won’t leave me alone I’ll write this!” things. It’s not really even a vignette, I don’t think. It’s more like two almost disconnected scenes that just happen to take place at the same event.

Synopsis: There’s an art exhibit showcasing works about the Dichidian War. Viktor Blue, Slayer of Drochslem, and his brother, one of the artists featured who was formerly a Dagger sniper, have a very touching conversation. And then there’s the bit with the queen that doesn’t connect to it.

First line: Viktor stood in front of the painting with the somewhat pun-y title The Fall of Drochslem and felt tears stinging his eyes.

I combined this with another vignette about Vincent into a story called “Hope” that I’m currently waiting for a rejection letter for.  I’m not being pessimistic.  I discovered after submitting it that Word had stripped out all of my quotation marks when I tried to fix the fact that some were smart quotes and some weren’t. Fuck.  I have one more market to submit it to after this, and then it gets self-published, because know it’s awesome, regardless of what all the editors who’ve rejected it think.

From October 17, 2014:

I’m changing the format to make this easier to read and a lot less stream of conscious.

This looks enough like the last list that I’m kind of wondering what format I was using between the two.  I’d go look, but I probably have something I should be doing by now, like eating lunch since it’s after 3:30.

I’ve made very little progress in anything this month.  That’s a bit depressing.  I’m blaming Patrick Rothfuss.  I keep losing hours to The Name of the Wind.  It’s an awesome book that I highly recommend.  Anyway, NaNoWriMo is coming up, and hopefully I’ll have 50k words added to one of these at the end of November.  Or 25k and 25k more of No More Lies edited.  I haven’t decided which I’m doing yet.

I combined several into Intertwined Lives and worked on it.

  1.  Richie

Synopsis:  Slice-of-life in a space opera setting about an up-and-coming rock star trying to juggle that with family life.

First paragraph:  Somewhere out there in the tri-galaxies, one of Richie’s older sisters was fighting to free a world from tyranny.  Somewhere out there, another of his older sisters was engaging in a bit of smuggling.  He, however, was in the nursery of his house in Namenlose Province, Sweytz, trying to convince his daughters to take a nap.

Present status:  1,622 words written, possibly stuck

Aiming for:  Novel or series of novels

Already talked about.

  1.  Kayden

Synopsis:  Slice-of-life in a space opera setting about a stay-at-home dad, his apprentice jeweler husband, their baby girl, and Kayden’s large family, most of whom are in some sort of exciting career.  Focus would be on the contrast between his life and that of his siblings.

Present status:  Vague ideas

Aiming for:  Novel or series of novels

Abandoned because Kay proved horribly boring.

  1.  Bobby’s Daughter

Synopsis:  This is sort of a sequel to the novel I’ll have coming out next year, No More Lies.  Twentysomething years after it, someone shows up on Bobby,’s the main character of both stories, porch claiming to be his daughter.  A bit of self-loathing occurs and disappointment from just about everyone, then adventure will happen.  And a bit of stupidity.  It’s a space opera, though a bit small scale for one.

First paragraph:  The knock on the door surprised me a bit.  Most people who’d be visiting unannounced at that time of day would’ve just walked in.  I slid a knife into my left hand and opened the door with my right, figuring I could never be too cautious . . . especially after the shit with Andrei last year.

Present status:  4,172 words written, have possibly plotted myself into a corner and need to rethink things

Aiming for:  Novella or novel

Now called Dangers of the Past, and I’m rewriting what I’ve already got because I had some timeline problems.

  1.  Giant Space Spider

Synopsis:  In a different, more pulpy space opera setting than the other works, a ship goes to investigate a world no ship has ever been able to get past.

First paragraph:  No one knew what lurked beyond Alzas.  Spacer rumors had put everything from ancient evils from before the dawn of time to pirates very determined to keep their stronghold secret.  All that was known for sure was that something was there, and that something didn’t let anyone past.

Present status:  789 words written, possibly stuck

Aiming for:  Novella or novel

This is another one that I dearly want to write.  Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to get further than this.

  1.  Jake’s Early Years

Synopsis:  This is a prequel to my novellaJake’s Last Mission.  This would be the story of how Jake went orphaned ranch hand to military officer.  It’ll start a space western and shift as it goes on to military space opera.

First paragraph:  “I can quit school.  I already know how to read and do math and such.  I can figure out anything else, Dad,” I said, sounding as mature as I could at eleven years old.

Present status:  Don’t know how many words written as some is handwritten.  I idiotically switched from third to first person, so I’ve got to decide which I’m using and rewrite the rest.

Aiming for:  Novella or novel

Abandoned at present while I try to figure out how exactly I want to do this.

  1.  Second Kavaliro Cousin

Synopsis:  Lyndsey and Taliza, the main characters from my novella The Crown of Eldrete, and a team are going to Polthaina to try to secure the space port and naval base with the help of local rebels.  Someone’s been feeding the bad guys intel.  It’s space opera.

First paragraph:  When Lyndsey got to the bridge of the yacht, Taliza was already there and talking to someone.  “I understand that,” she was saying, “but we’re unarmed, so clearly there’s no reason to fire on us.”  Taliza hit the button that let other occupants of the bridge hear what was being said over the comm.

Alternate first paragraph:  Polthaina had been attacked by enemies so often in its long history that the entirety of the world was covered in ruins.  Lyndsey paused to try to read an inscription on a vine and moss covered arch in one of these ruins.  “Hey, Cousin?  You got any clue what this says?”

Present status:  2,553 words written in one version, 363 of another.  The existence of two different versions that are that incomplete should make clear how very badly this story is going.

Aiming for:  Novella

Already talked about.

  1.  Lyn, Rek, Ana, and Bobby Have An Adventure

Synopsis:  This is set years before the Kavaliro Cousins series when Lyndsey’s wife, Anastasia, was a Dagger (rebel-for-hire) too.  She and Lyndsey were on a mission when they ran into Bobby (from No More Lies and Bobby’s Daughter) and his best friend, Rek, who are on a mission for the Sweytzian Defense Force Special Forces.  The two groups are targeting the same organization, but for different reasons.  It starts with Rek’s disguise being good enough to fool Lyndsey so she shoots him, and things go downhill from there.  This one is also space opera.

First paragraph:  Son of a fucking bitch! Lyndsey thought as the guard got into sight.  He was looking right at her.  Guess I’m not as well hidden as I thought.  With a quick prayer, she pulled her holdout blaster and shot the guard.  Having not taken the time to aim, the bolt only scorched his leg a bit.  Should at least slow him down some, she thought, quickly hitting a button on her comm with the hand that didn’t have a blaster in it.

Present status:  6,809 words written.  Might need to back up a bit and rewrite from there.

Aiming for:  Novella or novel

Abandoned because it was stuck for so long that I decided to quit trying to push a story that didn’t want to happen.

  1.  Magi

Synopsis:  Elianthir has just become a mage.  His grandfather died under mysterious circumstances years ago.  His girlfriend, who’s a member of his hometown, just found brutally killed sheep.  An evil mage is somehow involved in all of this.  That’s all I know so far.

First paragraph:  Elianthir touched the intricately carved silver cover of the codex with trepidation.  He knew that once he opened it, all of his grandfather’s hard won knowledge would disappear from its pages.  The words — those the Order of Tylar considered important anyway — had been carefully copied into the Grand Codex of Tylar, of course.  But that didn’t stop Elianthir from feeling like he was about to destroy something of great value, to destroy the last remaining bit of his grandfather, who’d vanished in a cloud of pale blue smoke while fighting a telazir years before.

Present status:  2,619 words written.  I need to do some world-building first.

Aiming for:  Novel or series of novels

If I ever got around to doing the world-building, I could probably manage this.  But I think I want to tackle that fantasy travelogue idea first to kind of ease myself into writing fantasy.  Maybe they’ll be in the same setting.

  1.  Loving Her

Synopsis:  Renata, Bobby’s sister and Lyndsey’s mother, is stabbed in the lung and nearly dies.  The story contrasts the way her husband of thirty-three years and her “not-a-boyfriend” of a year and a half handle this, and the “not-a-boyfriend” realizing he can’t keep up the charade that he doesn’t love love her.  Her marriage is open, so this has nothing to do with a love triangle or anything like that.  This will be a romance in a space opera setting.  It also will have stuff about her debating retiring from being a Dagger.

First paragraph:  Renata and I had been enjoying each other’s company in my tent when the alarm sounded.  Within moments, ((enemies)) were pouring into the camp from every direction.  The battle was long and hard, but I don’t remember much about it now.  Nothing about it was nearly as important as what happened near the end.

Present status:  2,601 words, and some bits here and there from a writing exercise thing that I might be able to incorporate, written.  This and two of the other things on this list have overlapping timeframes and characters, so I . . . am getting an idea that I’m not sure I’ve actually got the skill to pull off, especially as the plots, themes, etc. don’t really . . . wait, I just might be able to make this work!  Hmmm . . . this, 3, 2, 1, and 12 may all end up combined into one longass, about as many viewpoints as A Song of Ice and Fire story.  Maybe.  Or this could be a “sounds good at 4 in the morning” idea and tomorrow I’ll be like “What the fuck was I thinking?!”

Aiming for:  Novel

This is the one that last blogpost of mine about titles was about.

  1.  Super Hero Story

Synopsis:  Super villain stole an important thing.  Super hero team that usually deals with such things is too well known to super villain, so they’re recruiting a new team.  I think I was planning to go with something Avengers like . . . new team learning to work together while thrust into the crucible sort of thing.

First paragraph:  The red energy field contained by the pentagon pulsated.  Mona Cathar, known to most as the Pink Spider, studied it from afar, daring not to get close enough to be tempted to try to touch it.  The others present, actual scientists, unlike her, jabbered about “revolutionizing our understanding of Quaglon science” and “non-electrical power” and other such things.  Mona, however, saw one thing when she looked at it:  Money.

Amount already have:  372 words written.  Pretty sure this is stuck, which is sad.  I have the bad guys and their motivations, but the good guys are proving much harder.

Aiming for:  Novel or series of novels

Already talked about.

  1.  Viktor’s Life Story

Synopsis:  Viktor has finally conceded to have an official biography written, decades after killing the tyrant Drochslem and bringing peace to the Vorton galaxy.  That’s the frame story to him telling the tale of how he went from quiet bookish teenager to war hero to Dagger to Drochslem’s slave to Drochslem’s killer to crippled bar owner, poet, and professor.  Space opera, needless to say.  Space fantasy to a certain extent too, I think.

First paragraph:  I wasn’t sure exactly what I’d expected Viktor Blue to look like, but it certainly wasn’t the gentleman standing in front of me.  His silver hair, the only part of him that betrayed his age, hung to just past his waist, part of it pulled back in an elaborate braid.  His clothing was much like that his husband normally wears, but tamer:  a loose, long-sleeved white shirt with ruffles at the cuff and collar; a black vest with silver embroidery; black silk pants; and black boots polished to a gleaming shine.  His jewelry was plentiful, but simple and understated, save a pair of silver filigree earrings he absent-mindedly untangled from his hair as he limped towards me.  There was a black cane with a pearlescent handle next to his chair, but he’d left it behind.  He was tall with piercing blue eyes and spoke in a cultured baritone.  He sighed softly before asking, “You’re the Royal Historian, I presume?”  His accent was odd, which I didn’t find surprising since he hadn’t learned to speak Allurian until he was in his thirties.

Present status:  1,111 words written.  Like this story, but am just not feeling inspired.

Aiming for:  Novel or series of novels

Already talked about.

  1.  Rusark and Lyn

Synopsis:  Rusark is a widowed Sweytzian Defense Force Special Forces officer.  He’s rather calm, collected, and rational.  Lyndsey is a Dagger fighter pilot/ninja who is considered eccentric, if not outright crazy, by other fighter pilots and Daggers.  The Daggers and the SDFSF are friendly rivals.  They fall in love, despite Rusark not really wanting to be involved with someone who’s so likely to die young.

First paragraph:  My new friends had decided I was going to enjoy myself that night regardless of what I wanted.  It’d only been two sulida since Tanya and I had broken up.  I’d thrown myself into work instead of dwelling on how broken-hearted I was over her behavior.  Dalrek and Harrison decided I’d thrown myself into work a little too much, apparently, and pestered me about needing to go have some fun until I’d relented.

Present status:  2,260 words written.  Have made a previous attempt at it, so the next 6000ish words will be rewriting stuff I’ve already written.  This is what I’m planning to work on for NaNoWriMo, but now that I’ve got that new idea of combining lots of things . . . ~sigh~  I’ve got to do some thinking.

Aiming for:  Novel

Already talked about.

  1.  No More Lies

Back cover blurb:  Years ago, Bobby Kavaliro ran away from Sweytz, from everything and everyone he’d ever known, lured by promises of money and power made by the smooth-talking dictator of Anerix.

A few years later Bobby came to realize how stupid he’d been and became a spy for the very world he left.

A spy posing as an assassin.

A spy whose best friend and mentor has just had his cover blown.

A spy who jilted someone who would now like to see him dead.

A spy, in other words, who needs a vacation.  And a spy who is hoping to meet someone to share his bed while on that vacation.

Bobby finds more than that when he meets Karen.  So much more, in fact, that before too long he’s moving back to Sweytz, looking for a job, and trying to quickly learn how to be a responsible adult for the first time in his life.

Meanwhile, Anerix’s High Command, now very much suspecting he was a spy, are sending assassins after him . . . and after Karen.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, Karen doesn’t believe half of what he’s told her about his past, nor is she sure she wants to be with him after she gets to know just how temperamental and immature he can be.

Bobby has to grow up fast to keep her love, deal with everything he’s missed while he was gone, try to avoid being killed, try to keep Karen safe, and try to rebuild his relationship with his family, all at the same time.

First paragraph:  This is exactly what I needed, I thought, as I leaned back against a tree in Thil Park on Sarglerich and began tuning my loothin, a break from sneaking around listening to things I could get killed for overhearing, worrying every second that somebody’s gonna figure out what I’m up to and kill me, and all the other shit that goes along with my job.

Present status:  4,111 words written in second draft.  112,000ish to go before I start looking for beta readers!

Is:  Novel

If I have to tell you what’s going on with this book, then you haven’t been paying attention to this blog at all this year.  And now it’s 60,000ish words before I look for beta readers . . . if I can find ones who understand the difference in beta reading and rewriting a story the way they’d have done it.

Posted in Intertwined Lives, Jake's Last Mission, Kavaliro Cousins, Kristark's Coronation, NaNoWriMo, No More Lies, Once A Hero Always A Hero, Writing process | 1 Comment
Oct 26

The Hardest Part of Writing A Novel . . .

. . . is coming up with fucking titles!

Synopsis of story (as planned, details will, of course, change):  Quinn is a middle-aged ladies’ man.  Renata is one of his closest friends and occasional bedmate.  He’s fallen in love with her.  Not lust, not infatuation, love.  He doesn’t want to admit this.  He feels he’s too old to settle down.  She’s a mother and grandmother of several so he’d feel like he had to be a father and grandfather to them were he involved with her.  They pretty quickly admit they care for each other as more than just friends, but stop short of admitting they’re in capital l love.

Fast forward a year and a half:  She nearly bleeds to death in his arms.  (They’re in the same private military.)  He can’t deny how he feels after coming so close to losing her.  Her family vacation, which he tags along on, takes them to his homeworld.  On the verandah of his ancestral manor, they finally agree to try being a couple.

An earlier version was called Loving Her, but it was just the second part and had another viewpoint character in addition to Quinn.  It was more a comparison of the way two men who loved Renata were dealing with her nearly dying.  It was overly angsty, so it was reworked into this.

So far I’ve got:

Quinn and Renata (probably too dull)
Quinn and Renata Love Story (the filename)
Just Friends? (sounds like a teen romance to me)
The Cost of Denial (too dramatic?)
No More Than Friends (. . . I just thought of this one.  This could work!  My other romance in this setting is called No More Lies, so there’d be that bit of similarity . . . of course, that would pretty much tie me to all Universal Nexus romances having “No More” as the first two words of the title, so maybe this isn’t such a good plan . . .)
More Than Friends (maybe?)
Only Friends (sounds dull)


The Gambler (Quinn’s former profession and current expensive hobby.  Rejected for an obvious reason.)
Loving Her (too generic; I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this on more than one book too)
About ten million other things that are, it always turns out, either the names of 90’s country love songs or Bon Jovi love songs

Suggestions?  Comments?

Posted in Rants, Writing process | 3 Comments
Oct 18


I just solved a plot problem in No More Lies that’s been bothering me since late 2013 when I wrote the first draft of the section I’m currently revising!  I’ve known since pretty much when I wrote it that the section would need drastic cuts . . . one of those times when an idea works much better in your head than it does on paper . . . but I wasn’t sure how to go about it since one of the things that happens in the part that didn’t work right has later ramifications.  I just realized, while whining about how bad this section was, that there’s a very easy fix:  Tell, don’t show.

Yes, I know that’s contrary to common writer wisdom, but this time it’s the right thing to do.  Most of the scenes in question are dull, in large part because Bobby is in a culture he doesn’t understand, surrounded by people who don’t speak any languages he does, during them.  It’s not a “fish out of water” scenario because he deals with it by spending the whole trip reading, which isn’t exactly fun to describe.*  But there’s one scene where a drastic misunderstanding occurs that Bobby throws in his girlfriend’s face during a later argument.  But I can’t have the scene with the misunderstanding without having the ones after it, the dull ones, because the pacing would be too weird.  I can, however, have the misunderstanding mentioned as being the only thing worth noting that happened on the trip, and then get on with the next section.

I really think sometimes more of the skill in writing a good story than most people realize is choosing what to leave out.


*  It is fun to think about, however, because this is a guy who likes cheesy fantasy adventure stories.  How cheesy?  He considers The Hobbit highbrow.
Posted in No More Lies, Writing process | Leave a comment
Oct 05

Why my characters swear so damned much

(The title is the first way I thought of titling this post and was too perfect to not use.)

I’d never really thought about how much swearing there is in my books until it was pointed out in a review.  The review said that Lyndsey “likes to swear”.  This struck me as an odd statement.  I don’t think of swearing as something somebody likes or doesn’t like to do; I think of it as something a person chooses or chooses not to do, same as using any word or phrase.

Swearing, to me, isn’t a big deal . . . as is obvious from just about every blogpost I’ve ever written.  I blame my mother and grandfather.  (Huh.  That’s the second time today alone I’ve blamed Grandpa for my opinion of something.  I sometimes think if I ever wrote an autobiography I should call it It’s All Grandpa’s Fault.  And I’m pretty sure if I did he’d be smiling in the afterlife and pointing it out to everyone else around.)  Swearing was something kids were supposed to avoid in my family; adults not so much.

In some books, I agree with the oft-stated wisdom that infrequent swearing increases the impact of what swearing there is.  For instance when Molly Weasley says “NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!” in the final Harry Potter book, you know just how fucking bad shit has gotten.  You’re reading what is still, by marketing if not really by subject matter by that point, a kid’s book, and someone just said bitch.  It’s not playtime any more; this duel is for real!

But I don’t write that kind of book.  By the second paragraph of Crown of Eldrete, someone’s been casually killed.  In the fifth, someone’s stabbed in the heart.  In the sixth, someone is disemboweled.  All of this is mentioned utterly casually.  I think that makes it pretty damned clear that I’m not writing for kids, here.  Since I’m not writing for kids, I’m not watching my mouth or my characters.

Yes, I know there are people who are offended by swearing.  Like I said yesterday, if something in my books offends you, quit reading.  I don’t mind!

My characters swear, ultimately, because my approach to writing is to be true to the characters and the reality of the setting above all else.

I was going to use Lyndsey as an example here, but since there’s no way to do that without making it look like I’m doing the “complaining about a negative review” thing — which isn’t my intent at all, I’ll talk about Bobby from my upcoming novel No More Lies.  There are times when I wonder if he’s forgotten there are adjectives besides “fucking” and “damned”; that’s how much he swears.  Why?

For the same reason he sometimes uses grammatically atrocious sentences: That’s how he talks.  It’s what’s true to him.  He’s blunt, a bit rude, a bit uncouth, and has spent nearly a decade in the military.  To me, when a character with these traits doesn’t swear, it’s jarring.  For example, I’ve been reading the original Marvel GI Joe comics for the past few months.  Since they were either during the final days of the Comics Code mattering or right after it went away and were for a toy, the harshest word a character ever uses is “heck”.  One character uses “dag” a lot at first.  I giggle every single time.  The guy who uses “dag” grew up in a gang in Detroit and then served at least two tours in ‘Nam and now has spent who-knows-how-long-because-the-timeline’s-a-bit-screwy years fighting terrorists.  So, I giggle.  Because “dag” is so very much not the word a real guy like that would use . . . at least not without his friends giving him hell for refusing to swear.

This is always why some of my characters don’t swear very much.  It’s not that they like or don’t like to swear, which still strikes me as a very bizarre concept.  It’s that those aren’t the words they’d use in those situations.  I don’t like to swear nearly so much as I just find those are the words that best fit what I’m trying to say.  And I have an inordinate fondness for the hard-k sound, so I use “fuck” a lot when other words would, admittedly, work just as well.  (True story:  I sometimes take hard-k’s out of words I make up because so very, very many of them already have at least one in there.  That’s how much I like the sound.  And that’s probably one of the most “I’m really not normal” things I’ve ever typed . . .)

And the “swearing is lazy” argument is just plain stupid.  It’s no lazier than overusing any other word.

As for the “you could make the same point without using such horrible language!” argument, which I’ve, thankfully, never gotten but have seen another author — one who think sometimes swears enough that it at least seems like he’s doing it just to prove how edgy he is — get frequently . . . yes, I could make the same point, but could I make the same point with the same impact?  Probably not.  Let’s look at the second sentence of the current draft of No More Lies:

I was scared . . . no, I was fucking terrified . . . but there was no way I was going to let him see that.

Yeah, I could take “fucking” out of there and . . . well, no.  It doesn’t have the same meaning.  Not quite.  Because “fucking terrified” is more terrified than just “terrified”. (And the italics stays because “fucking terrified” is even more terrified than “fucking terrified”.)  And I don’t think the fact that the word “fucking” is used, oh, I’d say at least twice a chapter, throughout the whole book lessens the impact of that one bit.  Coming back to the topic of my last blogpost, it’s the intent, not the word that matters.  When Bobby, chapters later, describes one of his best friends as “fucking smart” in a sentence where he could just as readily have said “very smart” or “really smart” or, even, “brilliant”(oh, there’s a topic for another rant . . .), it doesn’t suddenly make the use of “fucking terrified” in the second sentence less impactful, amazingly enough.


(To the reviewer who I quoted at the beginning:  You just gave me something to think about; I’m not complaining about your review.  Except for this:  It’s spelled “Lyndsey.”  If you ever happen to see this, if you could edit your review to spell her name right, I’d appreciate it.  Names being misspelled is a pet peeve of mine, sorry.)

Posted in Crown of Eldrete, No More Lies, Rants | Leave a comment
Oct 03

“Aaaaugh! Stop saying the word!”


Today I was reading a review blog that I generally like, but used to like a lot more than I do now.  There are various reasons for this, but the one that prompted this blogpost is that the blogger puts things like this:  “The original text contains the use of the words “mad” and “stupid”.”  Well, no, actually.  That’s what made me start thinking about the blogpost.  What made me actually make it though was when instead of spelling out the word “crazy”, the blogger wrote “c***y”.

I understand the philosophy there.  I know there’s this idea among some social justice activist sorts that no one should ever use a word that’s ever been used to hurt someone.

The problem is, well, look at the video.  “It” is a perfectly innocuous word, but it hurts the Knights Who Formerly Said Ni.  A ridiculous example, yes, but the same applies in reality.

I understand the logic behind avoiding “mad”, “crazy”, “psycho”, etc.  I have OCD and anxiety.  I’ve been called all of those things. Yes, it hurt.  But, the word itself isn’t what hurt me.  The intent was.  Reading something described as a “crazy plan” isn’t going to cause me any sort of trauma . . . and if it was, then I should hope that someone helps me realize that I need professional help because that’s not normal for anyone.  Seriously, if a word is hurting you regardless of context, get help!

Language stops working if we eliminate every word that’s ever been used to hurt.  Intent matters.  Yes, people should try not to use words that only exist to hurt.  I’m not advocating calling people “gooks” and “niggers” here.  But, well . . . I have a character who looked at the five small fighters in his squadron and the one big ship the bad guys had and thought “We can take them.”  What am I supposed to have people call that but a “crazy plan”?  Am I supposed to have the other characters call it a “mentally ill plan”?  Nope, can’t do that either because that’s still stigmatizing the mentally ill!  So, “logic lacking plan”, I guess?  See, eliminate the words “crazy” and “mad” and such, and you’ve just made certain concepts a lot more difficult.  (Also, this character uses the word “crippled” to describe himself and I know that’s going to get me negative reviews.  There are times I want to grab my fellow liberal sf fans and scream “Quit proving the Puppies right!”.  (If that sentence made no sense, don’t worry.  It just means you had better things to do with your spring and summer than follow the controversy over the Hugo awards.))

And this isn’t even getting into the cultural differences in word usage.  I saw a discussion, in that blog’s comments in fact, once that was talking about how calling someone “Oriental” isn’t seen as nearly as insulting in Britain as it is in America.  I saw a discussion there today about how the way one of the dinosaur names is abbreviated in Jurassic World makes it sound like a British racist term, one that doesn’t exist in American English apparently.  (Because Britain’s race issues are not our race issues, what with the countries having different demographics and all.)  So to communicate online, where we potentially have readers from all over the world, I guess we should avoid all words ever used to hurt anyone in any language?  That’ll leave damned few words left.

Oh, “damned”!  That brings me to another, relatedish, point!  I’ve noticed that the people who go on about not using “crazy” and whatnot in any context never seem to be willing to listen when deeply religious people tell them that they are made uncomfortable by reading swear words.  Double standard, much?

Personally, when I’m writing, I’m writing what words are needed for the story.  Sometimes those are going to be “triggery” words.  (In quotation marks for reasons I’ll get into below.)  Viktor isn’t going to stop calling himself crippled because just seeing the word apparently causes some people distress.  I’m sorry if you’re one of those people.  But if you are, I’m cool with you putting my book down and reading something else, you know?  Not everything is for everyone.  Likewise, if the 26 uses of “fuck” in the 72ish pages of The Crown of Eldrete upset you, then don’t read it.  It’s cool.  I know this isn’t the sort of thing an author’s supposed to say, but I’m totally cool with people not reading my books if they don’t want to.

Now, since I brought up triggers, I’ll go ahead and say this here instead of in another blogpost:  I’m not opposed to trigger warnings . . . within reason.  Unfortunately in the society we live in, putting a warning that your book contains graphic depictions of rape or violence or child abuse or anything else depressingly common like that is probably a good thing to do.  Too many people are legitimately triggered — by which I mean, using the term the way it was when I first encountered it years ago, “caused severe mental or emotional distress” — by those for it not to be something an author should at least consider. Yes, then you do get into the “what counts as graphic?” thing, but it would at least help.

But, do note that I said “graphic”.  If your book has mention of someone having been raped in the distant past, then I don’t think you need to put a trigger warning.  Yes, it’s triggering to some people just to be reminded that rape is a thing that exists.  And I hope those people are getting the help they needed.  Also, I think some people really need to realize that not everyone is using the word “triggered” the same way these days; some are using it the way people who rail against the term claim it’s being used:  to mean something made them uncomfortable.  I doubt there are many people who are actually triggered by the word “crazy” being in the text; I can believe there are lots of people who are somewhat uncomfortable with it, especially in certain circumstances.  Which comes back to my original point, somewhat.  Same as you can’t eliminate every word that hurts someone, you can’t possibly warn for everything your book contains that might trigger someone.

Jake’s Last Mission has some non-graphic violence (by any sensible definition), references to old people having a sex life, some swearing, and speciesism.  It doesn’t have trigger warnings, despite the fact that all of those things undoubtedly bother someone.  I’m not writing for all seven billion people on Earth.  I can’t.  Same as it would be impossible to figure out what universally appeal to them, I can’t figure out what would universally upset them.

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