Mar 08
2016

Finally free on Amazon!

Once A Hero Revised cover

At long last, my first published work, “Once A Hero, Always A Hero”, a short story about two retired badasses turned bar owners who are trying to complete a business deal and end up having to save a whole society, is free in Kindle format!

Click here to get it!

Posted in Once A Hero Always A Hero, Short stories | Leave a comment
Feb 28
2016

In Defense of Non-Ordinary Characters

I’ve talked about this topic before, here, but it’s something that’s been on my mind a lot the past few weeks as I’ve binge watched several seasons of Doctor Who.  The Doctor is, according to a lot of the sort of people who frequent rpg and writing forums, exactly the kind of character no one enjoys any more . . . hypercompetent, too smart for the average person to identify with, too alien for real people to identify with . . . shit like that.

Yet the show is insanely popular.

This, plus re-reading the InCryptid novels in preparation for the next one coming out later this week — a series which has had more than one book make the NYT Bestseller List, if I recall correctly — have made me realize anew that the people saying what people don’t want in a character, what makes a character a “Mary Sue” by the modern definition (which is ludicrously far from the original definition) are full of shit.  People do want those things. They don’t.  They are a subset of people, a subset that’s got a big enough ego to think they’re speaking for everyone, a subset that also is not nearly as big as it thinks it is.

They also are a subset that I think scares far too many would-be creators out of doing what they really want to do.  Gods know they scared me out of it for years.  Universal Nexus started as a unholy massive crossover fanfic setting and got refined and rebooted a lot to become what it is today.  One of the things I focused on so goddamned much during the final reboot and, until recently, was worrying about when I made little refinements here and there, was making sure that no one was too powerful, too important.

A while back, I had a moment of panic when I realized that despite this, Jake had gone from just one of many decorated starship captains to the commander of the entire Sweytzian Fleet and the descendant of countless generations of warrior priests . . . specifically a family of them with a galaxy-wide reputation for two things:  1)  being excellent swordfighters, and 2)  lacking a sense of self-preservation, with rumors that they were bred or genetically engineered long ago to have these traits, especially the first.  Opinions differ on whether the second makes them better warriors or was an accident.

His eldest daughter . . . the female main character in the story currently called “Quinn’s Story” . . . went from just a mechanic and excellent swordswoman to a genius mechanic who’s revolutionizing maneuver drives, a kickass fighter pilot, and an excellent swordswoman.

Hell, Quinn himself went from someone whose whole character description was “walking Ruvellian stereotype — flamboyant, good with a sword and blaster, gambles a lot; looks a lot like Antonio Banderas” to the second son of a major Ruvellian noble, someone who is closely related to the queen of Ruvellia  — one of the major worlds of the setting, and a former professional gambler who was making quite a good living at it and gaining quite a bit of fame before he decided he wanted to do something more exciting with his life.

The major family in the setting went from “well off” to “each of their 30 kids will inherit at least a million upon the parents’ deaths, aside from that, I don’t actually know how much they’re worth.”  (The thirty kids, I must add before anyone criticizes it, come from various combinations of a total of eleven biological parents, and include some multiple births.)  It suddenly struck me that this made them less identifiable, more whatever-the-fuck-they-aren’t-supposed-to-be.

Then I realized, with some help from Jaye, that it doesn’t fucking matter.  They’re not Mary Sues except by the stupidest definition.  They are, alas, characters many reviewers aren’t going to like, because for some reason far too many of the people who review sf of any kind are the sort who subscribe to the belief that powerful characters are a terrible, horrible thing, that ordinary people . . . people “just like them” . . . are what every author should be writing about.

But they’re characters I, personally, like a lot more than I did when they were more ordinary people.  And I’m my target audience, not some unknown person on the internet who is a self-appointed expert on what everyone wants in their entertainment.

A series about Rose Tyler or Amy Pond where they never met the Doctor would’ve been boring as hell, in my opinion.  Yeah, there are people who say they like “true to life” stories like that.  But even those stories aren’t about ordinary people living ordinary lives most of the time.  They’re about when something interferes with that ordinary life.

Yeah, ordinary lives are what I wanted to show with Intertwined Lives and what I will, eventually, be touching on again in other works.  But not the ordinary lives of ordinary people.  Who the fuck wants to read about that?!  Sure, I’ve got a character who married into the major family who before that was just a humble coffee shop owner.  There’s no way in hell I’d use him as a viewpoint character before he met them.  That story would have chapters about such exciting things as “Going to church on Christmas” and “Hiring a new employee”.  Wheee!  I’d totally want to read that book!  Before he met Viktor, he’d exactly two interesting things happen in his life:  1)  emigrating from Earth, and 2)  his husband dying of a horrible internal fungal infection.  Those might be worth writing about.    But the first isn’t really that interesting without showing more of the surrounding political situation than could easily be done, and the second is too depressing for my tastes, so odds are I won’t ever bother.

I sometimes feel like the pressure to write characters people can identify with comes from people with no imagination.  I’m not, I hasten to add, talking about the people who say that meaning they want more characters that aren’t straight, cis, white men.  Those people have a very good point; they are just wording it differently than I would.  I’m talking about . . . well, a good example is someone from a conversation on a GURPS’ forum once who refused to play characters over a certain point level because he couldn’t identify with people who were that much more powerful than him.  This meant he could never play a game with superheroes, or archmages, or, hell, depending on where he drew the line exactly, possibly even realistic special forces characters.  I can’t wrap my head around this. Okay, some of this is admittedly probably because I sometimes think I was born the wrong species and was meant to be a stereotypical dwarf (not in an otherkin kind of way, just in a “they make so much more sense than modern humans!” way) so I’m, honestly, not really good at being an ordinary person.  Fuck, I’m not an ordinary person!  I’m a bisexual, Odin worshipping, democratic socialist with OCD and anxiety.  can’t identify with ordinary characters!  And I don’t expect to anyway.  I don’t want to read about me; I want to read about other people.

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Feb 15
2016

Guess the genre of these stories

So, I recently read some writing advice about the importance of the first page — so roughly 200 to 250 words — in establishing “the writer’s contract with the reader”, i.e. telling the reader what the book is going to be about.

I, as shouldn’t surprise anyone by now, thought this was completely stupid.  I don’t know about you, but personally if I pick up a book in the sci-fi section, or the romance section, or whatever, I’ve already got a pretty good idea what to expect, regardless of what the first page is like.

Anyway, here are the first 200ish words of two of my works-in-progress.  Have fun figuring out the genre . . . sci-fi is a given, so try to figure out the secondary genre . . . action-adventure, romance, mystery, what?

The answer is down at the very bottom of the post.

Excerpt the first:

I took a deep, centering breath before walking into the High Chancellor’s office.  I was scared . . . no, I was fucking terrified . . . but there was no way I was going to let him see that.  Not today, not with the rumors I’d been hearing.  By the time I approached His High Assholeness’ desk, I was the very picture of a calm, collected, highly trained assassin.

“You wanted to see me, High Chancellor?” I asked.  He was expecting me to try something stupid, that was clear from the blaster he had casually laying in front of him.  He knew me too well.  I said a quick, silent prayer for patience and self-control.

“Yes.  I have a mission for you, a very straightforward one:  Arrange for Kenshin Kenodori to meet with an untimely demise.  Immediately.”  He didn’t yell the last word, that wasn’t his style, but it was a near thing.

“Kill Kenshin?” I said incredulously, calling on years of training to keep the worry and fear I was feeling out of my voice.  “What kind of joke is this?”

He smiled evilly.  “Oh, I think you know this is no joke.  You know exactly what he’s been doing, don’t you, taverlot?”

Excerpt the second (this one is from a pretty early draft, hence the bit in parenthesis):

I had just finished sending the last foe near me to the Spirits when I heard a terrible scream from the direction Renata had gone, chasing someone attempting to run from the battle.  I just knew that it was her who had screamed, not the ((enemy)).

I numbly climbed the overturned troop transport and found my dearest friend stumbling, her hand clutching her side, blood flowing freely between her fingers.  The bastard who’d stabbed her was growing smaller in the distance, running faster than any Human ever could have.

Don’t let her die like this! I pleaded with the Spirits as I jumped off and ran to her.  I forced myself to stay calm.  That was surprisingly easy to do.  Years as a Dagger have somewhat inured me to seeing people I care about mortally wounded.  “Let me help,” I said, gently, as I eased her to the ground.

She was growing paler by the piclanid.  I applied pressure to the wound on her side with one hand while keying my comm with the other.  “Ren needs a medevac, now.  Here are our coordinates.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They’re both romances.  Either I’m a total failure as an author, or that advice is particularly stupid even by the standards of writing advice.

 

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Feb 02
2016

Is This Seriously What Readers Care About?!

I found an blogpost full of blogpost suggestions for authors that are not only supposed to improve your novel (some in ways that seemed to me to be quite a stretch — like the writer of the post came up with the subject line and then had to make the content fit any which way she could), but also supposed to help engage with readers and make them want the book.

Some of them were logical enough . . . sharing excerpts and short stories, for instance, but some . . . do you really want to know about the research I did on stab wounds to the lung to write the Quinn and Renata thing?  Is that really going to help you decide whether or not to buy the book when it’s out?  Is anyone really going to go “Wow, she really knows her shit when it comes to what happens when you’re stabbed in the lung; I’ve got to buy her romance novel where that happens to someone!”?

I’m pretty sure the answer is no.  Please tell me if I’m wrong.  I did do a lot of research on it, so if it really would help sell the book to blog about what I learned, I guess I could.

This, I suspect, is one of those bits of advice that works much better for certain genres than others.  If I was writing something that involved researching, I don’t know, Greek Christmas celebrations or something, maybe it could actually be interesting to share with my readers.  But I write space opera.  Space opera which will — to hopefully avoid more reviews like I keep getting complaining that it’s not hard sci-fi enough — contain the disclaimer at the beginning that “Scientific realism is tied up in the corner wishing it could remember the safe word.”  So I don’t research science-y stuff.  Research tends to be of the “Okay, so what’s the longest they could survive that without medical treatment?” variety.  Or the “I know what the British coronation ceremony is like, but what are others like?”  (The answer to that one could have been an interesting blogpost, I admit . . . if most of the info I found hadn’t been so poorly written that I couldn’t make sense out of it.)

This blogpost, like the last one I ranted about, also said that readers want to read posts about ordinary days-in-the-life of writers.  I seriously doubt that.  I very, very seriously doubt that.  On the off chance you do, here is my day so far today:  I got up around 10, played some games on my iPod while I had tea, had the battery go dead midgame because I’d forgotten to charge it last night, ate leftover pizza for lunch, had a brief rpg session that was in the middle of something so it would make no sense to anyone who wasn’t there for the beginning so I’m not about to try to explain it, opened Pinterest and couldn’t remember why, got annoyed at seeing atrocious grammar in writing advice so often and considered blogging about that, found this blogpost I’ve been ranting about, tried making a blogpost about one thing it said all by itself but that ended up way too short so I’m writing this one instead.  Later, I’ll be making a grocery list and then going to the store.  I assume dinner will be on the agenda for this evening too.  If this makes you want to read any of my books or more interested in me as a person, please explain how.  Oh, somewhere in there I had a brief nosebleed too.  Does that make the day more interesting?  It certainly made it more uncomfortable.

Hmmm . . . I was curious how they’d made a “day-in-the-life” post interesting, so I clicked their example of one of their own.  It wasn’t a day in the life.  It was pictures of and quotes from a book she was reading, along with stuff about how beautiful or whatever they were.  I guess I could do that.  I haven’t been reading much lately, but I could share my favorite Doctor Who quotes from episodes I’ve watched recently, along with screenshots.  Except I think Tumblr is probably a far better medium for that sort of fannish geekery than my professional blog.  This might be one of those things that works a lot better if you’re into more literary/highbrow stuff.

Another suggestion is to take inspiring quotations from your work and make wallpapers and such of them to offer your readers for free.  I, uh, don’t produce much that has much in the way of inspiring quotations.  Humorous quotations, sure.  Inspiring?  I’ll leave that for the people who aren’t writing about a ninja/spy/assassin with a knack for pissing off his girlfriend.  Lots of snarky quotations in No More Lies, but offhand I can think of only one line that might be sort of inspiring, and it’s so generic that I’m sure someone else has said it better.  Pretty sure this is another one that only applies to certain types of stories.

What about my favorite writing tools and programs?  Does anybody really care about that?    I mean, it’s interesting to learn that George R. R. Martin uses an ancient DOS word processor still, but he’s mentioned it in passing, not devoted a whole blogpost to it, you know?  I assume there’s a reason for that.  That reason being that nobody gives a fuck!  (Except the people who are somehow convinced that if he switched to more modern software he’d somehow write faster.  I really am beginning to think Scrivener sends out mind control waves because it’s always it that people are suggesting in conversations like that.)  Will you be more likely to read my books if you know that this is my most favoritest pencil in the whole universe?  Is that really the sort of thing anybody gives a damn about?

Or maybe I could blog about the themes of my novel!  That’d take whole seconds.  If there are any, it’s not intentional.  There.  That’s that whole post!  Is this a lit class or an author’s blog?  Does anyone really come to an author’s blog for a discussion of the themes of a novel?!

Or about what my purpose is in writing a novel!  That one is two whole words!  To entertain.  There.  That’s it!

In further thinking about it, I’m coming to the conclusion that the real problem isn’t the suggestions in that blogpost, so much as it is the author of said post assuming the advice she was giving was universal when it clearly is not.  If you’re writing some literary thingy, full of themes, and meanings, and you’ve got a purpose beyond entertainment, then maybe the kind of reader you want to attract will care about that kind of stuff.  If you’re writing something set in the real world, maybe you can share recipes and other stuff the characters make . . . another of her suggestions.

I’m not though.  I’m writing things full of spaceships that go whoosh, smart ass protagonists, alien/Human crossbreeds (within reason), sword and fist fights, damn near a whole cast that fails some Mary Sue tests spectacularly, and other stuff like that.  I’m writing good old-fashioned pulpy space opera, in other words.  (With modern sociopolitical sensibilities, though, because I’m me.)  This does not lead itself to deep discussion of things like themes, nor to fascinating posts on things I’ve learned, nor to me penning inspirational quotes to share.

 

And when I think about it, none of the author blogs I follow at all do I follow because of what they tell me about any previous or upcoming books.  Nor because of anything they have to say about the craft of writing.  Hell, one of the authors whose blog I follow recently wrote a post that was specifically writing advice type stuff, and I saw the first line, rolled my eyes, and didn’t read the rest!  This has no bearing whatsoever on whether or not I’ll buy her next book, amazingly.  I follow one author’s blog despite thinking his books are incredibly overrated!  Why do I follow his blog then?  Because he has interesting opinions on things like politics and various things going on in fandom . . . and regularly posts kitten pictures.  (And probably every sci-fi fan reading this knows who I’m talking about now.)

I really don’t think the relationship between blog readership and book readership for any given author is all that high.  Maybe for GRRM, since a lot of people seem to be reading his blog under the weird notion that he’ll announce the next book there first.  But for most of us?  No.  People read blogs for all kinds of reasons.  Some of you reading this may have no interest in my books.  That’s cool.  I hope I’m entertaining you anyway.  I hope you’ll at least give my stuff a try . . . the stories are free, after all.  All you have to lose is time and a tiny bit of hard drive space.  But I’m very rarely writing a blogpost to try to convince you to read my books.

Why, then, am I blogging?  Often, to be bluntly honest, because Jaye’s sick of listening to me rant about something so I’m ranting to a broader audience.  Or because I have an opinion and the written word is how I express myself best and, hey, I might as well share what I wrote with people.  I have no grand scheme.  Blogging isn’t part of some overall marketing strategy of mine.  Hell, I can’t even write a book with an eye on the marketplace; I sure as fuck am not even going to try when writing a blogpost!

Besides, if readers really care about the shit like these articles keep saying they do . . . then I’m screwed anyway.  Because I don’t want to write about this shit any more than I’d be interested in reading it.

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Jan 06
2016

An Experiment’s Results and an Announcement

Several months ago, I made all my works free everywhere I could as a special offer.  I left them free in a couple, without advertising this, since then.

I have sold exactly zero copies of anything for money since then.

I have gotten several downloads of each title in the places where they were free.  Please do recall that I didn’t advertise this special offer, aside from mentioning in the blogpost where I announced the sale back in August that I frequently forgot to change the price back to full in one location.

So, from this I have concluded that people do want my stories; they just don’t want to pay for them.  Or can’t.  I’m fine with this.  I know as a self-published author I’m supposed to go on some long-winded rant about people wanting content for free and don’t they understand how much the author slaved over it and . . . I can’t.  I’ve too often waited for books I wanted to be free or at least significantly reduced before I bought them.  Hypocrisy is a sin I try to avoid.

A couple of years ago, I participated in a discussion on another author’s blog where someone proposed that authors publish on a continuum between two reasons:  1) to reach other people, and 2) to make money.  The person who said this is so far on the side of “to make money” that she feels guilty about having spent the past several months writing fanfiction instead of things she can charge for.  I’m about as far as you can get on the other side.  Yeah, money’s nice.  I could certainly use more of it . . . who can’t in the shape the economy’s in right now?  But I’m not writing for it.  I could never make another cent off of my writing and I wouldn’t stop doing it.

In fact, I’ll be perfectly honest here:  I’ve made, as far as I can recall, 45 cents off of my writing this year . . . maybe as much as $2, I can’t recall the exact dates of some sales and don’t care enough to check.  I haven’t even earned enough for a mocha.  Is that doing a damned thing to stop me from writing?

Fuck no.  I’d write the stuff anyway.  I don’t write for money; I don’t write for fame.  I write because I can’t not write.  Suggesting I quit writing is like suggesting I quit breathing.

I’m not, by the way, denigrating anyone who does write . . . or do any art of any kind, for that matter . . .primarily for money.  You guys confuse the hell out of me, but whatever.  You do your thing, and I’ll do mine.  Just don’t try to tell me that by making my stuff free I’m hurting your sales.  Because that’s fucking stupid, and I have no patience for stupidity.

Anyway, people are downloading my stuff when they don’t have to pay for it.  That’s cool.  Yeah, I know the statistic thrown around to show why free downloads don’t count as sales:  Only one out of ever three hundred free downloads is ever actually read.  Here’s the thing: I’ve never seen an explanation for that statistic.  Have I downloaded free stuff I’ve never read?  Yeah, sure.  Who hasn’t seen an interesting ebook that was free and grabbed it and then had life happen and forgotten all about it?  But what’s the key word there?  Interesting.  I’ve read that there are people who just download every free book that exists with no intention to read them, ever.  There might very well be . . . “some people juggle geese,” after all.  But I sincerely doubt that that’s a significant portion of people who download any given book.  (In fact, based on the sales, regardless of price, versus number of reviews of the books by a romance author of my acquaintance, I suspect the one out of three hundred thing is more accurately the number of people who review the book, not read it.)  Even if the downloaders don’t read it, it at least caught their attention long enough for them to download it.  Since, as far as I can tell, most sci-fi readers don’t tend to review books without incentive — unless they really hate them or really love them — that’s the only statistic I can know.

So, as of a couple of hours ago, all of my presently available ebooks are free everywhere I can make them so.

(Did I emphasize that enough?  I can probably make it bigger . . .)

Does this mean that everything I write from here on will be free?  Again, fuck no.  First of all, Talman and Narecen and the related short stories are being written for The Ed Greenwood Group, so their pricing will be out of my control, which I’m fine with since I’m playing in somebody else’s sandbox.  (I can’t give more information on that right now because I can’t tell from the way the website is laid out what’s stuff anyone can see and what only people who are writing/illustrating/etc. for the company can see, and I wouldn’t want to give a link that doesn’t work for everyone.  New website is supposed to be up later this month.)  Second, as I’ve said, I could use more money.  People are more willing to buy novels than short stories.  No More Lies will not be free.  But anything under novel length . . . using the Hugo definition of 40,000 words and up?  Those will be free.

Print versions are also not free.  But since I can easily account for every physical copy I’ve sold, I doubt that really matters.

Now, obnoxiously, I can’t make the ebooks free everywhere.  A self-published author can’t set their work to free on Amazon without it being a Kindle exclusive, and I refuse to do that.  Why?  Because only about 60% of ebook sales are through Kindle.  Cutting myself off from 40% of the market is bloody stupid.  (I, by the way, am in the 40% I’d be cutting myself off from.  I buy from Kindle only when I can’t get a book any other way.  I have more reasons, but mostly it’s an aesthetic thing.  I prefer the font choices and stuff like that in other apps better.)  Anyone can, however, report that something is free elsewhere and maybe, maybe if Amazon gets enough reports they’ll make the book free.  I’ve been waiting over a year for them to change the price of “Once A Hero, Always A Hero” though, so I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for that to happen.  I also can’t change things to free on Nook, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to report that it’s free elsewhere.  So, sorry if you’re someone who only purchases books from one of those.  (If you purchase from Amazon because the only format you can use is theirs, drivethrufiction.com has my stuff — except “Once A Hero, Always A Hero” for some reason I can’t recall, but am pretty sure is “because I forgot to upload it” — in .mobi too, and they’re free there.)

Also, please remember that this is just my works I’m making this the policy for.  I have no control over what Stolen Time or any future works by anyone other than me cost.  I can make suggestions, but other people have different philosophies and priorities than me.

Posted in Crown of Eldrete, Jake's Last Mission, Once A Hero Always A Hero | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment
Jan 04
2016

Announcing a new project

Cover of "These Happy Golden Years (Littl...

Cover of These Happy Golden Years (Little House)

In a lot of ways, it’s become increasingly evident to me over the years that my love of books didn’t follow the same trajectory as most of my fellow sf/f authors.  When they recount the first books they fell in love with, almost without exception they’re sf/f novels.  With authors of a certain age, it’s almost guaranteed to be a Heinlein juvie; I wouldn’t be surprised at all if in a few years almost every new sf/f author says it was the Harry Potter books.  With authors around my age, it’s more varied, but it’s still always the same genre they write in.

That’s not the case with me.  The first book series I fell in love with . . . well, the very first was the Berenstain Bears, so let’s go with first novel series instead . . . was the Little House books.  I’m well aware of all the “issues” with them, thank you.  Yes, they’re racist.  Yes, they’re sexist.  Oh, wait, no . . .they accurately represent what people in that place and time thought, you dumbasses!  For the most part.  Some of the Native American dialogue is very cringe-worthy, but, the books were written in the 1930s.  They’re fair for their day.  (And, yes, that is a valid defense of a “problematic” work.)  They commit the terrible, horrible sin of . . . brace for this . . . not having a plot!  

Yes, I’ve read the dumbass things about how the books are about showing how the Ingalls survived.  That’s people trying way, way too motherfucking hard to make the books be something they’re not.  Especially when people say that about Little House in the Big Woods and These Happy Golden Years.  (I’m also aware of the people who see them as being about things like “Good Christian values” and “how wonderful life was when more people thought like libertarians” and shit like that.  These people are also reading way too fucking much into them.)  (I also have a parentheses overuse problem.)

What are they?  Slice-of-life.  A record of life as it was decades before she wrote them . . . not quite historically accurate, as surviving letters between Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter show changes were made to make them more exciting/flow better/all that other sort of editorial stuff necessary so that slice-of-life stories don’t become “and then we spent six months doing absolutely nothing interesting” . . . but still, in broad strokes, they tell how things were, as the very first line says, “Once upon a time, sixty years ago . . .”  (140ish years ago now, but they’ve never changed the beginning.)

I frequently think that this series, Little Women, and the Anne series being my childhood favorites has a lot to do with why I don’t write the same kind of stories most of my fellow sf/f authors do.  When they were internalizing the idea that novels were about plot and technology/magic, I was internalizing the idea that novels were about people.

Sometimes those people have cool adventures, but sometimes they’re just living their life.

“What do these people do when they’re not saving the day?” has been something I’ve wanted to show in Universal Nexus fiction for a long time, because of these influences no doubt.  I tried last year with Intertwined Lives, but that experiment was a failure for many reasons, which I won’t enumerate here.  The premise though, showing what goes on in a space opera setting when there aren’t evil empires to overthrow and princes to rescue and all of that, wasn’t a bad one.  Combine this with me recently re-reading the Little House books, and an idea I had about two years ago that I cast aside as unworkable bubbled up in my mind again.

Jake, of Jake’s Last Mission

, has a life that leads itself to a Little House inspired series.  He starts out the son of a widowed ranch hand struggling to keep food on the table and ends up a military officer on a world that, even with ships capable of going over a thousand light years per day, is two weeks away.  I worked it out the other day and the story of his early life even breaks down readily into the same number of books as the Little House series, coincidentally.

So, there’s a new project for me:  Little House in Universal Nexus.  (Obviously this is not the final title.)

I have some issues to work out before I can get started, alas.  I’m not sure I can write from the pov of a young child, and I think it’s been pretty well established by now that I write much better in first person, so that’s an issue.  I might ignore how neatly it could be made to parallel the Little House series and start the series in Jake’s adolescence.  Or I might write the first few books from the pov of his father and switch to Jake when he’s older.  Or I might write a series of books like this about some other character completely.  Who knows at this point?

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Jan 02
2016

People are weird

English: George R.R. Martin signing books in a...

English: George R.R. Martin signing books in a bookstore in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Slovenščina: George R.R. Martin med podpisovanjem knjig v ljubljanski knjigarni. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, as I’m sure everyone know by now, yesterday (or early this morning) George R. R. Martin made an announcement which should have surprised exactly zero people familiar with his writing pace . . . namely that there still isn’t a release date for Winds of Winter.  I am amazed that people are surprised by this, but even more amazed by some of the reactions I’ve seen:

People saying they’ve been crying since they found out.

People sure it’s being delayed so people will actually watch the sixth season of the show.

People convinced he could be done by now if he just learned to type faster/got a newer computer/used a modern word processing program.

People speculating on how many years he has left to live — going so far as to use an online life expectancy calculator in one case! — and concluding that there is no way the seventh book will be written by him.

People convinced that he’s suffering from some sort of fear of not living up to people’s expectations and that’s why it’s taking so long, so he needs a good psychiatrist.

People thinking he doesn’t want to finish it because he’s been working on the series for so long that it would cause him to have to acknowledge his own mortality.

As well as the usual entitled whiny brats saying “I’ve invested x years/$x in this series!  He owes it to us fans to finish it and quit accepting invitations to do other things/writing other things” in every conceivable fashion short of actually calling him their bitch.

But none of these floored me as much as one particular sort of response I saw:  People who won’t be reading the book when it comes out since they’ll already know what happens from the show.  This, despite GRRM pointing out in his blogpost that the books and show have already seriously diverged!  These people, when pressed about it, acknowledge that there will be differences, but the big plot points will still be the same.

I just can’t wrap my head around this.  Maybe it’s because little me started the Little House series with Little Town on the Prairie, after having seen various episodes of the show set all over the timeline, but for me, reading a book has never been about finding out how things end up.  It’s about the journey, not the destination.  (Come to think of it, this might have something to do with trouble with coming up with plots . . . or maybe that’s my love of Little House in general being the issue there.  More on that in the blogpost I intended to make today which I’ll almost definitely probably make later this week.)

I can’t comprehend reading something as long as A Song of Ice and Fire just to find out how it ends!  I read over twice as fast as the average person (between 400 and 700 wpm, depending on which online test I use . . . I’m calculating this based on 500 because it made sense at the time); it’d take me 3540 hours to read all of the books so far!  That’s 147.5 days . . . assuming I could read 24 hours a day, which I can’t.  Assuming a more reasonable 6 hours a day spent reading, it’d take me 590 days to read the books.  That’s over a goddamned year!  If who Jon’s parents are or who’s going to ultimately end up on the throne was the only thing keeping me interested, I’d have long since given up!

It especially doesn’t make sense to be reading GRRM’s books for that purpose since this is the guy who has repeatedly said the only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself!  I think that makes it pretty damned obvious that he’s not writing the books with his focus being on the end point of the plot!

EDITED TO ADD:  I have found even more confusing commentary elsewhere:  People saying that GRRM himself will not be interested in the books any more after the show ends, “since he won’t get to show us the ending”.  What the fuck?!  Guys, no writer ever has ever written something just to get to show readers the ending.  In fact, given GRRM’s “sins” — the “overdescribed” banquets and heraldry and “too much emphasis on characters people don’t care about” — I’m willing to bet what he wants is the same thing I do:  to show people the cool characters and setting he made.

Posted in Rants | Leave a comment
Dec 31
2015

I got bored

I’m bored; I haven’t blogged in a while; and I have a new story refusing to form into anything more than a vague concept.  In the hopes of maybe getting a tiny grasp on one of the characters, I dove into my collection of character creation questionnaires.  (I believe I’ve mentioned before that I collect useless writing tools?  It’s a sickness.)  Well, I have yet to find anything useful, but I did find some questions that were so bizarre I feel the need to share them.  So I’m posting the first dumb question from several of these things:

What is/would be their favorite potato chip flavor?

What position does your character typically sleep in?

Scent:

Name origin:

Meaning of name:

What about the character is heroic?

Theme song:

What does their handwriting like?

When someone walks in [to the character’s home], what’s their first impression?

Astrological sign:

Blood type:

What about the character is social?

What kind of discipline was your character subjected to at home?

Does your character have a birthmark?

What is your character’s citizenship status?

Body hair (amount and color):

Did the character change much after high school?

Posture:

Descriptive similes:

Catchphrase:

Belly:

Diction:

The lie the character believes about himself:

Age and why:

Describe the character’s likely vocabulary:

I have a lot more, but I’m going to stop there.  I also found some that had no stupid questions, but they were equally useless for the character creation phase of writing something.  I can’t say what a character’s motivation is before I even know who they are!  I can only assume those are for those weird authors who start with a plot and then make characters to fit it.  I actually saw somebody talking about how plots are easy and characters are hard the other day!  That’s totally alien to me.  Characters are bloody easy.  Plots, on the other hand, are a bitch to come up with.

Anyway, to amuse myself I’m going to try to answer these 25 questions for the character I was trying to figure out stuff about.  So, read on to learn more about Jareth Kavaliro.

What is/would be their favorite potato chip flavor?  You know, I might be able to answer this about some of the characters I’ve “known” for ages, but a brand new one?  Fucked if I know.

What position does your character typically sleep in?  Why is this a question?!  Is there any way this can tell you anything about who a character is?  I don’t think I could answer it for any character.  No.  I’ve got it:  Laying down.

Scent:  This is a weird one.  I assume the character in question smells sweaty after working and like soap after bathing.  Is it maybe meaning “what cologne or perfume do they wear?” or something like that?

Name origin:  I have no idea where Jaye came up with Jareth, since she didn’t recall the obvious use of the name.  Kavaliro is Esperanto for knight.  In-universe it’s some ancient language’s word for something like “noble and valiant warrior” . . . though some, including some bearers of the name, claim it means “village idiot” or “lacking common sense.”  Why do I need to answer this to make the character?

Meaning of name:  Oh, I answered this above, at least for his last name.  Jareth means . . . I don’t know.

What about the character is heroic?  What fucking kind of question is this?!  Is this another manifestation of that fucking “all stories are the Heroes’ Journey” thing I keep encountering (and will rant about as soon as I can manage to do so without getting so irate that I lose the ability to form coherent sentences.)?

Theme song:  I don’t know!  A couple of characters do have songs that make me think of them, but it’s never a deliberate thing.  It’s that I’m listening to a song and suddenly realize, “Hey, the guy in this sounds like Bobby.”  It’s certainly not the sort of question I could answer before writing a single sentence with a character!

What does their handwriting look like?  I know the answer to this for three whole characters.  Two of them because it’s notably sloppy; the third because it’s textbook perfect.  The rest?  If it’s ever really, really relevant, I’ll figure it out then.  It’s not relevant to learning more about Jareth.  Besides, it’s hard to say more than “neat” or “sloppy” since they write in a made up language with made up characters!  Newsflash, makers of these questionnaires:  Not all characters are in modern Earth settings!

When someone walks in [to the character’s home], what’s their first impression?  I don’t know!  I just figured out the size of their house a couple of days ago; I’m still a long way from figuring out the decor, tidiness, etc.

Astrological sign:  Seriously, this was on about every third questionnaire.  Maybe they were written in the Seventies?  (That is when “what’s your sign?” was actually a pick-up line, right?)

Blood type:  Okay, I understand in Japan blood type is thought to be linked to personality traits . . . I have no idea if this is a mainstream belief or not, but it’s what a website said and I’ve played a video game where it was a characteristic that influenced character behavior, so I can understand this one being asked, sort of.  But . . . a) wow, that’s humanocentric, and b) I don’t have a clear enough picture yet to tell you Jareth’s hair color and you’re asking me his blood type?!

What about the character is social?  I’m not even sure what this one’s asking.  Anybody else want to hazard a guess?

What kind of discipline was your character subjected to at home?  You know, I’m pretty sure this isn’t really relevant for most adult characters.

Does your character have a birthmark?  I don’t know!  Why does it matter?  When do birthmarks ever matter in stories unless they’re part of a prophecy?

What is your character’s citizenship status?  This one is just bizarre.  That’s, it seems to me, the sort of thing that there’s no reason to note unless it’s somehow important to the story, and most stories I can think of where it’d be important, it would be obvious what it was so the plot would work.  Anyway, Jareth has lived on the world since he was one and a half, so I’m pretty sure he’s a citizen.

Body hair (amount and color):  Is this really something people think about when creating a character?  I can answer it for a couple of mine, but that’s because their species doesn’t have much body hair.

Did the character change much after high school?  Look at the assumptions in that one!  Not only does it assume the story is set in a timeframe where high school — which is really a pretty recent invention — exists, but it assumes your character went to it!  I’m not sure the world Jareth lives on has high schools, and even if it does, he didn’t attend one.

Posture:  See response to body hair.

Descriptive similes:  I don’t think I’ve ever once thought “What are the descriptive similes I would use for this character?”  Has anyone else?

Catchphrase:  No.  Please, no.  Not every character has to have a catchphrase.  In fact, most shouldn’t.  Most people don’t have catchphrases, do they?  I do have characters with catchphrases, but in they were always emergent, not planned.

Belly:  I really don’t think it’s necessary to know exactly what every single bit of your character looks like before you write.

Diction:  How do you even answer this one?  I’m not sure I could describe my own diction, for fuck’s sake!

The lie the character believes about himself:  The past few months I’ve started seeing lots of stuff with this sort of question on it.  I guess there’s some newly popular writing advice book or something out that would have you believe every character has a lie they believe about themselves and this has something to do with making them a “real” character and their arc and shit like that.  This is a totally foreign approach to character creation for me.  Seems to me it’s creating a character as a device to tell the story you want instead of a person.

Age and why:  Age is a sensible enough question, but why?  I don’t get that one.  Jareth is 29 because his randomly generated birthdate makes him that old in the year the story is set.  Why is the story set that year?  That’s for another blogpost.  🙂

Describe the character’s likely vocabulary:  What the fuck?  How do you describe someone’s vocabulary?

I really, really don’t get how these things are supposed to be helpful.

Posted in Rants, Writing process | Leave a comment
Dec 18
2015

Star Wars

Cover of "Star Wars Episode VI - Return o...

To me, this is the epitome of space opera

I don’t actually know how long I’ve been a Star Wars fan.  As I’ve mentioned before, one of the first toys I remember having — and I remember it as not being new in my first memories of it — was a Yoda action figure.  I first saw Return of the Jedi when I was about six, and by the time I was seven or eight I could recite every line in the movie, and knew every move in the climactic light saber duel.  It is still one of my favorite movies, nearly thirty years later.  I see other authors talking about this book or that book that taught them how to keep the reader engaged and how to tell a story and is why they write in their genre and stuff like that, and for me — though I’ve always been a rabid reader of all written material put in front of me — the influence like that wasn’t a book.  It was that movie.  What I’m trying to capture when I put pen to page (or fingers to keyboard, whatever) is the feeling little me had when I first saw the final episode of the original trilogy.

The dedication in one of my books reads something like “Dedicated to George Lucas, because the Faeshild wouldn’t exist without the Jedi”.  That’s one hell of an understatement.  Universal Nexus wouldn’t exist without Star Wars.  I write space opera because as a very small child I fell madly in love with Jedi, light sabers, droids, dogfights in space, and a cocky smuggler who was possibly my first fictional crush.

I hold all other space opera to the standards of that movie.  Most fail horribly.  This is, I know, what separates me from most of my “target audience.”  I don’t think The Empire Strikes Back is the best space opera movie ever; in fact I think it’s pretty dull.  Nor do I think the perfect space opera anything is the one with the best fight scenes.  Space opera, to me, is excitement.  It’s larger than life heroes and villains.  It’s good triumphing over evil. It’s scoundrel captains and weird aliens.  It’s quirky robots.  It’s more a feeling any science fiction work can have than a genre of it’s own, if that makes any sense to anyone but me.

I got a three star review once that was, almost in it’s entirety, “Feels like Star Wars”.  I’ll never figure out why that only warranted three stars . . . especially in a book that I dedicated to George Lucas because that rather shows what I was going for, yes?.  In my opinion, that’s the highest praise you can give a space opera author.  If it doesn’t feel like Star Wars and you’re calling it space opera, I’m going to be disappointed.  (Please note, I mean the movies — any of them — not the goddamned Expanded Universe which I think tried way too fucking hard too often to be “real” science fiction and killed the magic more than the midichlorian thing ever did.  I have no opinion on the “new” Expanded Universe because I’ve only read the sample of one book.  It kept me interested enough that I’ll check it out of the library some day; that’s all I can say so far.)

Yes, yes, I know:  space opera book fans want harder science, or they want epic battle scenes, or they want . . . yeah, I don’t give a fuck.  It’s not what want.  I want something that feels, if not like Star Wars, then like the old pulp that inspired it.  Give me your plot contrivances, your banking turns and sound in space . . . give me that sense of fun and adventure that’s why I fell in love with Star Wars in the first place.

Just please — because this is 2015, after all — give me characters to root for that aren’t all white, heterosexual, cis, able-bodied, males.  I’m not saying we can’t have those — that’d be a really daft thing for me to say when I’m writing more than one story narrated by one! — but remember that they aren’t the only option.  I’m not asking that they match none of those characteristics, but really, I don’t think it’s asking that much to have characters that don’t match all of them.

That’s what I try to do with my books.  I’m not trying to write some deep tale that’ll make you rethink anything.  I’m just trying to tell a fun story with quirky — yet real feeling –characters in a neat setting with really cool tech that’s mostly just an excuse to play with “what if”s.  (The general concept behind Galfarran tech:  lock Nikola Tesla and Jony Ive in a room for a thousand years.)  I don’t know how well I succeed.  But I do know something that does:

Tonight I had the good fortune of seeing a movie which might, maybe, finally replace Return of the Jedi as my favorite space opera movie.  No, I didn’t finally get around to seeing Serenity; I know enough about it to know that I will, most likely, never watch it because it doesn’t contain enough of the stuff that I thought made Firefly great.  I saw — on a whim, we’d just gone in to check ticket prices because the website wasn’t working and discovered they weren’t sold out — The Force Awakens.  I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t gotten a chance to see it yet.  I’ll just restate this:  Return of the Jedi is, in large part, the reason I write space opera for a living; I think I might like The Force Awakens more.

Posted in Reviews, Star Wars praise | Leave a comment
Nov 24
2015

Cool article on how medieval books were protected from theft

http://medievalbooks.nl/2015/07/10/chain-chest-curse-combating-book-theft-in-medieval-times/

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment