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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

kindle-coverIn celebration of the Fourth of July weekend, my pirate adventure fantasy with dragons and airships, The Voyage to Ruin, is free! Light up your sparklers and crack open the delicious beverage of your choice, and sail over to V2R on Smashwords for oodles of nautical adventure.

And remember, word of mouth is how indie authors survive. If you read it, even if you hate it or couldn’t finish it, think about leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads. I’d be deeply obliged to you!

ETA: Thanks to eagle-eyed readers who noticed the link was broken and suggested the fix. It should be working now.

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March Mayhem continues! Don’t forget to head over to Joanne Renaud’s blog to sign up to win a bunch of cool freebies: books, art, and more–just click the banner!

The awesome Katherine Tomlinson interviewed me about all kinds of stuff and whatnot over at her blog, Kattomic Energy. Here’s a snip that will probably get grammar nerds worldwide up in arms:

AP or Chicago Manual of Style?

AP ALL THE WAY. And yes, I deplore the Oxford comma (but I’ll still use it if it’s truly, absolutely and entirely necessary)!

Head over to the link to get the full scoop, and check out the rest of Katherine’s blog while you’re there.

And seriously, guys. The Oxford comma? It’s useful sometimes, sure, but how often is it actually necessary?

 

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Spring is here, and it’s time for March Mayhem! Fifteen days… five authors… and the chance to win a fabulous swag basket with prizes from Donna Thorland,Lynne Connolly, Kat Parrish, Joanne Renaud, and me!

In addition to a shiny new paperback copy of A Question of Time and Joanne’s brand new science fiction romance Doors, Joanne is also giving away the artwork featured in the banner above, which features (from left to right) Yalira from Kat Parrish’s Bride of the Midnight King, Marcus Aurelius, Lord Malton from Lynne Connolly’s Dilemma in Yellow Silk, Anna Winters (and her kitten Scrappy) from Donna Thorland’s The Dutch Girl, Charlie from my short story Somebody Brave, and Orne St. John from Doors.

More info about these characters here!  You can find out more about March Mayhem prizes here, and you can enter to win from Joanne’s home page from now until 3/30/2016, 12 AM, EST.

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I haven’t touched Steel Butterfly: Part One since I sent it off to the Awesome Team Beta a couple of months ago (in fact I haven’t written a word of fiction since I typed The End), but that was the plan. I wanted to let it sit and not do too much conscious thinking about it until I was ready to dig into revisions–and I knew (or felt, or vaguely apprehended–more likely, given my usual MO) it would need revisions a-plenty.

My feeling or vague apprehension is borne out by initial reports from the betas: the beginning is rough, the world-building sketchy, and the main character not as likeable as I had fondly imagined. So, that’s okay; now I know what I need to fix. But I’m not going to dive in just yet (for one thing, a couple members of the expeditionary force have yet to report back), for another I’ve got art deadlines, and for a third I want to give it time to cook in my subconscious before I bring it back to the fore.

I don’t know how other authors work, but for me a lot of the thinking about my stories goes on in the background while I’m doing other stuff. It’s like soup: you chuck in the ingredients, turn on the fire, and then let everything simmer and meld. Sometimes you might chuck in a couple extra things while it’s cooking, to make sure you’ve got the balance of flavors right, but mostly you just leave it alone.

What that means in practical writing terms is working on other stuff entirely, taking notes when a concrete idea bubbles to the top of my brain, and just generally being on the alert for neat ideas I can toss into the soup. I’m reading a book called Samurai Sketches (tales of samurai from the end of the Edo period) that is happily congruent with some of my needs (plus it’s just interesting!), and a blog post about Final Fantasy IX helped bring some of my world-building thoughts into better focus. That doesn’t mean my soup is going to be Final Fantasy-flavored*, or have big chunks of samurai in it (how far can we take this metaphor?), but storytellers are omnivoracious, and every thought, word, experience, goes into the soup one way or another.

The omnivoracious author on the hunt for more ingredients...

The omnivoracious author on the hunt for more ingredients…


 

*It doesn’t mean it’s not going to be Final Fantasy-flavored either, given what a tight grip FF4 still has on my imagination.

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FINISHED*

*for certain values of finished

*for certain values of “finished.” There’s work yet to be done, sanding down the edges, polishing the grain, that kind of thing. 155K is a lot of words! I bet I can cut at least fifteen thousand of them. But. But, but, but! The thing, the thing that I thought I would never get done, is done!

Be still my heart.

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Stephen King’s On Writing is fifteen years old this year (fifteen! the mind wobbles!), but still an engaging read on its own merits, especially for the overlapping middle section in the Venn diagram of Writers and Stephen King Fans.  It came to mind last night because, you see, I’ve been noticing this trend.

An aspiring writer (or rather, folks who write and aspire to make careers of it) can have a wonderful grasp of characters and how stories flow, a bright and new and incisive way of looking at the world, the best and most creative ideas–but none of it matters, because their grammar and spelling are terrible.

And if someone points out the problem, they respond airily, “That’s what editors are for.”  Whereupon one has no choice but to grind one’s teeth and turn the subject.

Because, guys, I hope you realize that is not what editors are for.

If we must have a toolbox, let it look like this one, please!

If we must have a toolbox, let it look like this one, please!

The middle section of On Writing is called “Toolbox,” and in it King details all the things you’ll need to have with you in order to write successfully.  (I just used an adverb, which he would decry, but you know what? “No adverbs” is less of a rule than a guideline, anyway.)  Vocabulary and grammar go on the top level of the tool box, accesible at need–and guess what? You always need them.

Now, I admit, I’m a bit of a grammar nerd.  I love all of the bits and pieces of English and how they fit together, like the nuts and bolts and cogs and gears and bellows and pumps and little spinny things that make up some wonderful, vast Steampunk machine.  We can debate the merits and uses of the Oxford comma or the split infinitive or God help us the passive voice all day long, and I will not sigh or check my phone nor excuse myself from the discussion, not once.

But you don’t have to be a grammar nerd to recognize that grammar, good grammar, is what carries the freight of your ideas from your brain to the brain of your reader.  If that train of thought is rickety, or ill-constructed, or just plain can’t roll out of the station, the idea transfer will be imperfect at best (and since what happens in the reader’s brain never 100% matches what happened in the writer’s brain, “imperfect” is already the best one can hope for), and at worst, impossible.

Take another metaphor.  My son, the Viking Prince, has decided he wants to be an artist.  I may have mentioned this before.  And he practices, and he tries, and he draws pretty damn well for a four-and-two-thirds-year-old.  Now, a drawing, like a story, is meant to convey an idea, and if the viewer can’t tell what he’s looking at, then the drawing has failed in its purpose.  (Old-fashioned, I know.)  What a four-year-old can convey, with the tools available to him, is going to be different from what a fourteen-year-old, or a forty-year-old, or a four-hundred-year-old (shout-out to all the immortals in the audience) can (or should be able to) convey.

Voltron, reposted with the artist's permission.

Voltron, reposted with the artist’s permission.

But if the grownup spurns the basic, the most basic, fundamental, necessary tools of grammar and spelling, then he is crippling himself.  Because you cannot, you can not convey ideas of any complexity without a proper understanding of how the language works.  You are an adult trying to paint the Sistine Chapel with stick figures.  The four-year-old is doing the best he can.  The forty-year-old must do better.

An editor can’t read your mind, and he can’t tell your story for you.  If the editor wanted to tell that story, he would write it himself.  It is not his job to turn your childish scribbles into the Sistine Chapel.

So please, if you have true aspirations towards being a writer, do not neglect the basics.  (Never neglect the basics, in anything–but that’s a post for another day, maybe.)  You can’t build a glorious cathedral without humble things, boards and stones and chisels and planes.  These things are not beneath your notice; they are necessary.  Fundamentals are called that for a reason; they are the basis, the foundation, for all the wonderful things you can build on top of them.  So fill your toolbox well.

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Naturally, when I sat me down this morning to chip away at the final few thousand words of the Neverending WIP, what should my dear little laptop give me but … a WHITE SCREEN OF DEATH.

Never seen that before. Gave me quite a turn.

She’s up and running again now, after a few restarts, but … I’m going to be extra paranoid for a while, especially as I close in on the finish line.

And remember, kids: redundant backups!

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