Writer Brains and Research

Jules Verne, French science fiction writer of ...

Jules Verne, the godfather of plausible speculative fiction. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Fantasy is even harder to write,” I alleged recently, “because you have to make the science work.”

If the science in a story isn’t plausible — whether you actually call it science, as in hard sci-fi, or whether it’s simply background dressing or setting, as in a romance set aboard a diving boat — the rest of the story won’t be plausible, either. In the romance above, for example, even if the story is supposedly just boy-meets-girl, if the couple blithely dives hundreds of meters without special equipment and resurfaces without ill effects, I’m not going to buy the happily-ever-after. Continue reading

Something Wicked, or How I Got Kicked Out of Book Club

Cover of "Something Wicked This Way Comes...

Cover of Something Wicked This Way Comes (film)

So Monday night I attended for the first time our local library’s book club. It may also have been my last.

The club was discussing Something Wicked This Way Comes, the creepy seasonal novel by Ray Bradbury. I’ve always felt vaguely guilty about not liking this novel quite as much as it probably deserves, but after listening to everyone else give their impressions, I felt like a positive fangirl. Oh, sure, a few enjoyed it, but at least half the group hadn’t even finished the book.

That’s not what got me into trouble, though. No, this particular session of book club offered dinner and a movie, and we watched the film adaptation for further discussion.

I realized I was both dominating the conversation and sounding rather negative, both of which I figured were bad for a first-timer, so I squelched myself a bit. And thus a blog post was born! But the comparison really does offer a really spectacular example of what removing the stakes and changing motivations can do for a story. Continue reading

The Proposed USFS Photo Ban?!

Ansel Adams landscapeIt’s about to become enforced policy: it’s illegal to take photos in national parks and on federal lands without a $1500 permit. The fine for taking unauthorized pics will be $1000/photo. Even in the /cough/ Ansel Adams Wilderness area.

USFS says it’s to protect the forests. Sure, our parks have been under a lot of stress — illegal logging, water pollution, drifting air pollution, human-started fires have all taken a high toll. You know what’s not damaging parks? Digital and film recordings. Photography doesn’t ACTUALLY steal the soul, you know. Continue reading

Feminism & Writing

So the “f-word” is getting a lot of chatter this week, as Emma Watson spoke to the UN on Monday about feminism. Of course some people immediately threatened a nude photo leak (or manufacture, since apparently no one has legit nude photos of Watson) to bully her into being quiet. [see update below]

Way to prove Watson’s point exactly, people.

There are two fundamental problems here, and I can personally contribute to fixing only one of them. But I’ll explain them both. (And yes, this is still about stories!) Continue reading

How We Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Self-Publishing

Image found on a book published by "Samua...

Image found on a book published by “Samual Bagster and Sons” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fair warning: Today’s post is less art and more business. I’m going to very briefly touch on why I self-publish.

I didn’t start out as a proponenet of self-publishing. When I first knew I wanted to grow up to be a writer, it was simply “vanity publishing,” and to be honest that’s still out there. Vanity publishing was expensive and mostly low-quality material that couldn’t get a second look from “real” publishers. Those who used a vanity press rarely made money and were not taken very seriously.

That’s changed now, and there are a lot of reasons why self-publishing is now “legit.” And I’m not even talking about admitted outliers like Hugh Howey making $150,000/month and walking away from seven-figure offers. Sure, those success stories are awesome and I applaud! but there are other benefits to self-publishing as well. Continue reading

Vintage Books Are Art

A page from the mysterious Voynich manuscript,...

A page from the mysterious Voynich manuscript, which is undeciphered to this day. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I respect books. I hate to see books damaged, even — especially — in the name of decor. At a decorators’ show house recently, my sister, mother, and I looked in horror at shelf art made of cut up books. “Oh, thank goodness,” my sister soon identified, “they’re just Reader’s Digest Condensed Books.”

Walking through a decorating fair using vintage books and paper as disposable materials makes my blood run dark. The current trend of tearing up old books to get aged or interesting paper is infuriating and wholly unnecessary. My mother has decorated her bathroom with delightful antique book illustrations, everything from Sinbad to Sherlock Holmes, all color-copied from the originals for a neat aesthetic with no damage. Continue reading

A Bit of Business, to stay in touch

Facebook logo Español: Logotipo de Facebook Fr...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sorry, guys, this post isn’t hilarious or touching, just necessary. If you follow on Facebook, please note the following.

Facebook is openly reducing the “reach” or exposure of pages. While originally a Facebook user could “like” a page and see its updates in their feed, now those updates are not often shown unless the page pays to promote the post. This means users simply aren’t seeing updates. Continue reading

Frozen: What Went Wrong

Okay, I’m gonna pull some hate for this one, I know. But.

Disney’s Frozen could have been amazing, but its script got in the way and made it, not a glittering glorious castle of ice, but that splashy muddy sludge left after snow melts. It had good moments, but given its individual parts, the sum should have been much better.

Vilhelm Pedersen illustration.

Gerda in The Snow Queen, Vilhelm Pedersen illustration. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not even talking about the internet rage at the de-feminizing of The Snow Queen, a fairy tale which featured a nearly entirely female cast and a girl actually rescuing a boy. I’m talking purely internal plot problems. And yeah, there’s gonna be lots of spoilers ahead, so be warned. Continue reading

Why Does Writing a Book Take So Long?

sticky notes color-coded for organizing plot during revisions

Shard & Shield undergoing color-coded revisions. Spoilers probably available if your monitor is sufficiently awesome.

A friend joked about my copious free time. “I mean, what do you have to do, really? You’re self-employed, so you can totally slack off there. And you’re writing a book, and that can’t be hard. I mean, really, how long can that take?”

He was joking about all of it, of course, which is why he’s still breathing. But he put forth a question which many people do ask less ironically — how long can writing a book take, really? (Seriously, just look at fans complaining about George R. R. Martin or Patrick Rothfuss needing time.)

That’s the wrong question — as NaNoWriMo and the 8-Hour Book Challenge prove, writing a story may not take long at all. But writing a good story does. Continue reading

Writing emotions. No, not ABOUT emotions.

The problem with writing is that it’s wholly subjective. Qualitative. No hard data.

ClickStats, my clicker-training data-keeping app

ClickStats, my clicker-training data-keeping app

Where we can do quantitative analysis, we can make reasonable judgments even when our emotions aren’t in alignment. “I felt great about this today, but we actually had only a 70% success rate.” Or, “Oh, man, today has been a total downer and I hated this session, but we nailed it with a 90% success ratio.”

That’s very nice for behavior analysis and free throws. Not so useful with writing.
Continue reading