Category Archives: Writing

Inspiring news! (#SFWApro)

So Tuesday I read some of the latest draft of Southern Discomfort to the writing group (Chapter Two, which introduces Maria). The response was enthused.

The people who’d read the previous version said I’d fixed a lot of their criticisms. The people who hadn’t read it liked it. A couple of people said if I finished it and released it now, they’d buy it. That’s very cool. And gives me a big incentive to put in the hours and get this done at last.

A little intimidating too, of course. If I’ve set that high a standard for the opening, now I want to keep it up the rest of the book. And the scene with Maria is one I’ve worked on extensively, so it’s not surprising it’s in good shape. A lot of the later scenes are going to be new material, and doing that well will be difficult. Then again, everyone liked the second scene in Chapter Two with Sean and Susan (a couple of teenagers. Young, happy, in love and with everything to live for — uh-oh) and that was new. So onward!

Oh, and I’m now well up over 25,000 words, so I feel a little better about all the time I spent recently working on other gigs.

Speaking of which, I had a heavier-than-usual Screen Rant schedule this week. I’d been working on “Super Hero/Super Villain Team-Ups” which was my assigned column for this week. But then one I’d pitched — 15 WTF adaptations of King Arthur, to coincide with an upcoming movie — got bumped on the schedule. I don’t know why they wanted it so early, but I trust they know what will grab eyeballs. And in case you’re wondering here it is. Learn how Merlin became Dr. Strange’s teacher in a 1978 TV movie. The amazing link between Galahad and Superman. How Merlin had his own sitcom. The times MacGyver, the GI Joes and the Thundercats met Merlin or the Lady of the Lake. And the physically impossible sex scene in Excalibur (source of the still below — all rights to image with current holder).

I also completed the CreateSpace process for Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast.It is now available in hard copy via Createspace. Done!

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Filed under Screen Rant, Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals, Writing

So I was going to write a post about all the extra time I’ve put in … (#SFWApro)

Because due to my nights of insomniac waking up at 2 am or 3 am, and all the work I’ve put on the various paying gigs the past few weeks, I’ve been consistently putting in more time than the 35 hours I shoot for. And so I’ve been wondering if I should take an extra day off, an hour here or there, or just forget about it. It’s not like claiming comp time at work, after all, seeing as I’m the boss.

But then yesterday I hardly got a lick of work done. Not that I wanted to slack off, but between the demands of the Leaf legal articles and my Screen Rant work, I wound up with an assortment of tasks I hadn’t gotten done:

•Pension paperwork from my years at the Destin Log (yes, I qualify for a pension, though with Freedom News’ bankruptcy, it’s coming from the government pension-guarantee agency).

•Some health insurance paperwork.

•Dealing with contractors for a possible refrigerator problem (fine as it turns out) and some weatherstripping issues with the front door.

•Coping with an Internet outage.

•Catching up on exercise (yes, I actually prioritize that over writing, unless there’s a deadline).

•Paperwork for our pet insurance.

•Getting a haircut, picking up some meds and depositing checks all during my morning bike ride (part of the exercise). Plus I stopped off for tea and a cookie at a coffee shop on the way (that one I can’t justify except I felt like it).


•Sorting through yet more paperwork (what can I say? Paper accumulates).

So the end result was, nothing but my next Screen Rant submission accomplished. Even so with my multiple early mornings this week, I didn’t actually have to reduce my bank of extra time? Or will the plumber coming today suck up some of that? We’ll see what time sends at me next (cover by Gil Kane, all rights reside with current holder)


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Filed under Personal, Time management and goals

I think this advice for writers is unsound (#SFWApro)

So I recently stumbled across an article Dean Wesley Smith wrote several years ago, about killing the myths of publishing. One of the myths, Smith says, is that you must rewrite something to make it good — in his view you shouldn’t, unless an editor asks you to [edited for clarity]. It’s fine to throw away a draft, then start over fresh and improve it, but actually going back and editing your work is giving in to the critical side of your mind, which is composed of bad advice from writing classes and editors and how-to articles. Instead write it, polish it (small changes are okay) and either submit it or self-publish it. Even if it sucks, editors and readers won’t hold it against you next time. And no amount of rewriting will ever fix a bad first draft.

Smith acknowledges that every writer is different, not every writer does things the same way, but I think that’s just boilerplate — the whole point of the article is that you should do it this way. That if you’re doing it the other way, with rewrites and self-editing (aside from edits requested by an actual editor who can buy it), you’re doing it wrong. And obviously this method works for him, as he’s published a lot of stuff. And for several others, whom he mentions in his article. But as a fundamental rule, it’s a pile of bollocks. Smith isn’t myth-busting, he’s myth-propagating. I’ve been reading variations of “don’t rewrite” and paeans to the first draft being pure unfettered creativity and the logical editorial side of you can only strangle your pure creative spirit as long as I’ve been reading about writing (which at this point is a while).

No question some writers can write awesome first drafts. I will agree with Smith that not every writer has to rewrite (although I suspect no-rewrite writers are rarer than he thinks). But “famous writer does X” isn’t always proof that’s how it can, or should be done. Stanley Weinbaum sold the first short story he wrote, A Martian Odyssey, and it remains a classic. That doesn’t mean most of us can write and sell a classic story first time out, not even if we tried (as Lewis Carroll put it) with both hands.

Besides I know for a fact that bad first drafts can be rewritten into something good. I’ve done it often enough and the results have sold.  Smith’s argument I should just have published the originals or submitted them … that I find dubious. It’s possible, as he says, that editors may not remember them or hold them against me (I’ve not been an editor so I can’t say) though if I’d done that with, say, Wodehouse Murder Case. I rewrote it a lot before I started sending it out. And I improved it. If I’d sent in the first draft to Azure Valley and they’d rejected it, I couldn’t have resubmitted the revised version that sold.

Readers? Smith argues that as readers are free to sample your indie stuff, they simply won’t buy the book if it sucks — no hard feeling. But what if the book opens well, then bogs down mid story? Or simply ends without wrapping everything up? Sampling may not reveal that. And if I someone puts my stuff down after sampling because it sucked, are they likely to sample my next book? Some people will give authors multiple chances, I almost never do. Case in point, I won’t make any effort to read more how-to’s from Smith.

For a better discussion of revision (and the Heinlein quote Smith uses to buttress his case), visit io9.


Filed under Story Problems, Writing

Imaginary Worlds: a secondary-world history (#SFWApro)

IMAGINARY WORLDS: The Art of Fantasy by Lin Carter (wonderful cover by Gervasio Gallardo, all rights remain with current holder), a history of secondary world fantasy for the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, didn’t blow me away as much as when I read it as a teen. But I expected that.

Back then, the literary world Carter mapped was terra incognita to me. All these amazing authors — James Branch Cabell, Clark Ashton Smith, A. Merritt, E. R. Eddison — that I’d read maybe one or two books by, and now I saw how much more stuff was out there. Ohhhh, I wanted it. I wanted it all. Now, of course, I’ve read most of them, liked many of them (as I’ve mentioned before, Eddison’s Worm Ouroboros is much overrated). The thrill of seeing what lay ahead is gone.

That aside, this is a decent but flawed history of the topic. Carter argues that secondary-world fantasy (Middle Earth, Narnia, Hyborian Age) is the core of fantasy fiction so it deserves a spotlight. While dubiously asserting that pretty much any ancient book with magic in it should count as fantasy (if people believed in them, they ain’t fantasy; I’m quite sure Milton thought Paradise Lost was dramatizing real events), he does a good job following the idea of “create your own world and make it magical” concept from William Morris through George McDonald, Dunsany, Merritt, Cabell and then into the pulps and after. And he lists the different ways of creating a separate world: another planet, another dimension, ancient history, distant future or just say “here it is” without explanation.

And I find a lot of his analysis — why it’s okay sword-and-sorcery has a limited range of styles and where Tolkien went wrong — pretty persuasive. However I could do without the endless carping about how fantasy is really, really cool even though people laugh at it, though that was pretty common in writing about the genre at the time (back in the pre-Game of Thrones, pre-LOTR films, we fans could get a little defensive). And some of Carter’s analysis is daft, such as describing Raymond Chandler as a guy with no prose style (it makes me suspect Carter has never read Chandler).

Curiously Carter doesn’t seem to believe fantasy set in what appears to be the real world is even remotely possible, which given the breadth of his own reading surprises me. True, he was writing well before the birth of urban fantasy, but by 1973 when he wrote this there’d certainly been fantasies that qualified (T.H. White, whom Carter greatly admires, did at least two, most notably the charming Mistress Masham’s Repose).  For that matter, A. Merritt’s fantasies are all contemporary, set in some isolated land tucked away from the rest of the world (he was writing early enough in the century that unknown lands were still a possibility).

The two big flaws are that Carter forgets his own ground rules, and that he talks too much about himself. Given his ground rules about what counts as a secondary world, he shouldn’t be including Islandia which is contemporary and has no magic. As he rules out fantasies set in other people’s worlds, Evangeline Walton’s books in the world of Celtic myth shouldn’t be there either.

The second flaw is much more frustrating. As with his Year’s Best Fantasy series, Carter has no compunction about turning the spotlight on himself. Which is fair enough at times — I’m not a fan of his Thongor books, but at the time it was one of the more successful Conan knockoffs — but I think readers would be better served by more detail on, say, Andre Norton’s Witch World series than discussing the Carter/DeCamp continuation of Howard’s Conan books.

Overall, I think reading the introduction to the various books in the Adult Fantasy series would be more productive than reading Imaginary Worlds. But I do think Carter’s thoughts about writing fantasy are worth discussing in a later post. So I will.

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Filed under Reading, Writing

New Screen Rant column: 18 things you didn’t know about the Daleks (#SFWApro)

As my new Screen Rant column explains:

Daleks can climb stairs!

An appearance in Looney Tunes: Back in Action almost kept the Daleks from appearing in the new Doctor Who series.

There’s actually a Christmas song about Daleks.

And more quirky trivia from the nastiest of TV’s aliens. Go read right now or — “Ex-ter-min-ate!”

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Filed under Screen Rant, TV, Writing

The tide has turned. That may be a good thing (#SFWApro)

So a couple of weeks ago I was dealing with four different sources of nonfiction, income generating projects. At this point it looks like next week I’ll be down to one. I don’t feel bad about (perhaps in a few months).

The legal articles I was doing for Leaf has now wrapped up. It was fun doing it again — after several years with them back when I first moved up here I know the format and a lot of the topics well — but simply because it was for a limited time I put in a lot more effort than if it had been long-term. So that’ll free up quite a bit of time.

Two of the other income streams I was dealing with have yet to send me any work. Which is good because I had the Leaf stuff — it paid a lot better — and I don’t know how much more I could have handled. I keep wondering if one of them will start next week, enabling me to keep the money flowing. But I wouldn’t mind a week of getting back to mostly fiction, even though I’m still hustling for nonfiction gigs and magazine article ideas.

Screen Rant, of course, remains. I did my newest article this week (Dalek trivia!) but it’s not online yet. Rights to image remain with current holder.

And I did get close to 3,000 words of Southern Discomfort done, but that’s 2,000 short of what I’d planned. I should have stuck with the impulse I followed the previous week: when the nonfiction gets tough, just make myself put in the extra time to get 1,000 words each day. I’d figured I could catch up today — I did my last Leaf article (on the educational power of attorney) yesterday — but no. We had a somewhat chaotic morning with me walking the dogs (TYG was stuck handling something else) and then Plushie went and sat up in the bedroom. When I checked on him he stared at me as if he couldn’t quite figure out why he didn’t have one of his parents next to him to snuggle with (he’s not the sharpest card in the deck). So I settled in with him until he finally headed downstairs. All of which apparently left my brain too unfocused to work on fiction, so I switched to batting out some of Undead Sexist Cliches (The Book). I’m pleased I kept my nose to the grindstone, frustrated I got thrown so easily by morning events (and I had such a good night’s sleep, too!). But like I said, next week looks free and clear for catching up (fingers crossed).

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Filed under Personal, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead sexist cliches, Writing

So Trixie ate a button … (#SFWApro)

That was Wednesday night. We were up in bed when TYG noticed she sounded like Trixie was chewing something hard. Which shouldn’t be possible in our bed. And yep, she’d been gnawing on a button on the duvet and bitten part of it (we will not be using that duvet again). She didn’t seem to be choking or in pain so after some Internet research we decided to see if she’d poop it out. And she has, or around 80 percent of it. How do I know? Squeezed the poop bag and felt something that was definitely a button.

Wednesday was also odd because when I sank into bed Tuesday night I didn’t get up until 5:30. Which for me on a weekday is oversleeping. And I never oversleep. Not that I’m complaining — I had an exceptionally bad night Monday and I eeded every minute of extra sleep.

Thursday was odd because we didn’t want to take the dogs in to doggy day care as we usually do — after all we could hardly ask them to inspect her poop for buttons. So I lost my day to work without pups to parent. I had to pass up plans for a haircut — I rarely go out when they’re home because I have to set up Plushie’s cage and that’s more bother than it’s usually worth. This weekend, perhaps.

Of course the dogs being home meant that when a contractor showed up — I’d set the time precisely because they wouldn’t be here — the pups lost their shit (“PET ME, PET ME, PETTTTT ME!!!!”). The contractor crew bore it with good grace, though.

And in the evening, when I had to do my cleaning (I normally do that on day-care day too) the pups lost their mind again. I was home — but I wasn’t sitting with them! Or doing something with them! I was doing Other Stuff! Departure From Routine! Apocalpyse! Noooo! But after I was done we all calmed down and settled on the couch again. What the heck, no matter what they need, they’re worth it.

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Filed under Personal, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals