August 2010

Well, here’s something I never thought would happen: I’m a character in someone’s novel!

My dear friend, Jana Oliver is coming out bigtime with her new novel, The Demon Trapper’s Daughter, and evidently she needed a middle aged, goteed, pony-tailed, demon trapper named Jackson.  Well, I am flattered beyond belief, though I’m a little nervous, too.  Jana promised me that I’m not a jerk (at least in her story) and that I’m not the villain, other than that, she could make no promises.  eep!

Seriously, I’m kind of liking this, and am interested what the character does.   I have never used “real” people as characters, though some of the characters in Scimitar Moon are patterned after the old salty fishermen that I grew up with.  I would never have the courage to use anyone’s name, for certain, but Jana and I are close enough that I don’t mind at all.  She did not pattern the character after me other than name and appearance, so he could be anything… very interested to see how this comes out.

Jana’s novel is coming out in the UK and US in early 2011, and is available on pre-order, so drop by her website and have a look!

will debut February 1, 2011 from St. Martin’s Press.

will debut January 7, 2011 from Macmillan in the UK

We just returned from the ReConStruction convention in Raleigh, NC.  A long haul in a rented car (1800 miles) and a fairly small convention, but well worth it.  Rarely do I attend a convention where the panel discussions were so well-attended and fun!

Specifically, the “Day in the life of a writer” with Eric Flint, Walter H Hunt, Lawrence M Schoen and Mark Van Name, was very rewarding… seems no two writers do anything the same!

I did two different editing panels, one on editing as a necessary evil; meaning if you are an author, you better get used to being edited to survive, and one on revisions with my dear friend Jana Oliver, Jack McDevitt, the brilliant Edward M. Lerner, and Stanley Schmidt, editor of Analog.  The discussion was high spirited, with some goodnatured disagreements on what should and should not be done at the behest of an editor, and where does revision stop and editing start.  Once again, as many opinions and methods as there were authors.

And finally, I had the great honor of sitting on a panel with Joe Haldeman titled The Correct Space.  This was basically a rant by all those present on the great mistakes of SF authors and Hollywood directors everywhere, and why it is so important to at least get the mainstream details right.  Yes, we write fiction, but it has to be as accurate as we can make it if we have any hope of suspending disbelief.

So Thanks to the coordinators of ReConStruction, and all those I sat on panels with but did not have space to mention.

As writers we should always seek inspiration.  That is a given.

When a writer becomes isolate to the point that he or she only feeds on his or her own thoughts, I think the creative process suffers.  My opinion, once again.  Literature is rife with examples to the contrary, of course, but I am speaking of my own experience.  I have to get out, experience, play, see, watch, do, to really get my creative juices going.

Or, sometimes, all I have to do is click.

I am utterly convinced that the internet is the greatest boon to a writer since the dictionary.  A friend of mine threw a link to me for David Brin’s website.  Brin is a consummate author, ruinously intelligent and a fountain of imagination, and his blog is a true joy.  He recently did a “Potpourri time” piece where he throws out some interesting facts for everyone to enjoy.  One that caught my eye, and my mind was this New York Times piece on vastly different phenomenon that show similar patterns.

Okay, boys and girls, if this doesn’t get your creative juices flowing, check your pulse.

I immediately started thinking about my pseudo-humorous theory in Cheese Runners that the universe is a living thing, and that it doesn’t particularly like us.  Well, here’s my evidence… well, really I hope not, but it sounds pretty cool.

So no big moral or hint on this one, except to find inspiration where you can, and enjoy life outside your own little world.  You never know what might jump up and bite you on your imagination.

Here’s a little mote of wisdom:  Not everyone who claims to be an expert, is indeed an expert.  Please note: I have never claimed to be an expert on anything except perhaps making the perfect omelet, and if you don’t like spicy, you’d probably argue with me on that one, too.  In fact, anyone claiming to be an expert on anything, in my opinion, should immediately be viewed with suspicion, or be able to produce a PhD Diploma on the subject he or she is professing to be expert in.

First, let’s define “Expert”

From the Latin “Ex”, meaning former or in the past.

From the English “pert” a contraction “Spurt”, which is a small volume of water or some other fluid being extruded under pressure.

So, we have our definition: Ex is a has-been, and a Spurt is a drip under pressure…

All right, enough tom-foolery.  The point is, of course, to consider the source of your “advice”, this blog included.  I will offer opinions on almost any subject, but they are just that, opinions, and if you find a better one, please take it and let me know of it so I won’t embarrass myself further.

There are only a few things that separate good advice from bad advice.  Good advice must come from someone who is at least marginally experienced in the field.  The advice must be reasonably current, when dealing with subject matter which changes over time; for example, how to get your book, story, poem, or art published.  In areas that are less susceptible to change, some advice is timeless.  The perfect example of this is the list of “Twain’s Rules of Writing”, which are not only entertaining, but spot on, and always will be.  They are not trendy “this is the new editorial trick that will make your writing better” quips, but ideals every author should learn and live by.

My personal favorites are:

#5: “When the personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject in hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say.”

#6: “When the author describes the character of a personage in his tale, the conduct and conversation of that personage shall justify said description.”

#8: “Crass stupidities shall not be played upon the reader by either the author or the people in the tale.”

#9: “The personages of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let miracles alone; or, if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausibly set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable.”

They are all great truths, and should be read and thought through carefully.  Twain was always one for saying a whole paragraph’s worth in a single sentence.  Please note that the website linked above belongs to Mary Anne Mohanraj.  It also has a link to Writing Resources, which I glanced through.  Most of the material is a little dated (about 5 years) but some is interesting, and worth a read.

Well, there you have it, more advice from a non-expert.  The take-home is, of course, to keep your eyes open and do what you feel is right.  You may choose to not take a single word I print here to direct your efforts as a writer, but I think you can trust Mark Twain…