Category Archives: Uncategorized

Ravencon Panels (I actually DID do): Using Tropes to Tell Stories

Of note:  I am aware this blog is running late, even with the planned week off last weekend.  I’ve decided to officially reduce the posting rate for this blog to every other week (which is probably closer to how often I’ve really been posting my blogs, anyway), so my next blog won’t be until July 2nd, at the earliest.  Now, on to the interesting stuff….

As part of the promotion for the new World’s Enough: Fantastic Defenders anthology (which, contrary to my post last time, is still at the $2.99 “Balticon Special” eBook price; I’m not sure why it hasn’t gone up, but if you don’t have a copy yet that means you’re in luck), I participated in an interview with my fellow author Martin Wilsey. One of his questions asked about my favorite websites, and I just had to mention TVTropes.  I really do enjoy looking through it at times, and I’ve discovered a fun story or three I’ve never read, before, thanks to it… (but boy is it a time sink).

There are lots of ways to define tropes, but I think most people think of them, from a literary perspective, as a non-pejorative form of ‘cliché’.  In other words, they are a literary device that is observed in enough works as to be recognizable.  Or, rather, these could be seen as the “building blocks” for story construction.  I think it’s more that a when executed badly, this sort of thing gets seen as a cliché, but if executed well it is recognized merely as a trope.

As a writer, I think other writers should study the various tropes enough to be familiar with them.  Not only can it help you recognize the signals you’re sending your readers (you don’t necessarily need to follow the tropes, but you might want to find a way to tell your audience that you aren’t going that way), but they can give you a great frame of reference when trying to strengthen story points, or to figure out the important things to tell your readers when marketing your book.

Suppose, for example, you are trying to plot out what your villain (or even your hero, if you’re writing so-called “competency porn”) is planning to do.  You want to come up with a complex plan for them, but you’re just not quite sure you know what kind of plan to enact.  Well, tropes might give you an idea of what your villain is capable of.  Perhaps your villain knows your main characters very well — they might be capable of enacting a Batman Gambit.  Or perhaps your villain is very competent and would rather die than lose; he might create a Xanatos Gambit, so that no matter what happens he wins in some way… (though some ways might be preferable than others).  Do they make it all up as they’re going along?  It might seem like an Indy Ploy.

And then, when the book is done, knowing what a Batman Gambit is can help you in your marketing; you can explain the similarities between your villain and the oft-admired Batman-Gambit-using Star Wars villain, Thrawn, if you know what you (and your villains) are doing.

There’s a lot more I could say on the subject of tropes, but I think I’ll save that for the next time I’m speaking at a convention on the topic.  Speaking of which, I just got a guest invite to another convention; I’ll give the name of the convention and other details about this, soon, once certain things are taken care of.  Talk to you all again in TWO weeks.

Ravencon Panels (I’m Not Doing): Editors, Publishers, and Readers: What Rules to Break and Which Ones Don’t Apply

This is the fourth in my series of blogs on panels at Ravencon I’m NOT doing (of note, I’m keeping track of the schedule changes as they happen, and it appears there are a few more panels I’m NOT doing.  I started out scheduled for seven panels; the schedule is still changing, so I don’t know what the total will be, but it looks like I’ll be on fewer than that).  For further explanation, see my earlier blog here.

Editors, Publishers, and Readers: What Rules to Break and Which Ones Don’t Apply

Okay, this is a topic I might have considered being a panelist for (in fact, I’ve touched elements of it on this blog before), but it’s running opposite of another panel I’m scheduled for. So… let’s talk about it, here.

The panel is officially described as:

Many new authors have heard the rules: One POV per scene, don’t use adverbs, Limit the POVs to no more than three per story. These “rules” have been taught for over a hundred years, but who came up with them and do they still apply to the modern reader?

So, let’s cover some of these rules, shall we?

The panel description mentions:

A.  One POV per Scene:
Your options with Point of View are determined by your perspective.  In first person (unless you’re writing first person omniscient, which is… uh… possible, but unusual) changing POV mid-scene is, well, NOT something that can be done — a story written in first person is, by definition, one written from a single point of view (the narrator).
Third person unlimited perspective is all about head hopping.  The narrator knows everything, including what everyone thinks.  If you know what everyone thinks, there is no head hopping.
And 3rd person limited perspective does its best to mimic first person POV, but allows you to change that perspective between scenes.  So, in theory, no POV changes… aka, no head hopping should happen.
But sometimes, it’s unavoidable; you write a scene entirely from a certain character’s perspective, but then you need one more sentence to show something that happens the moment he leaves the scene, or when he’s not looking.  The question becomes:  Do you break the scene for a single brief sentence or two, or do you head hop?
You can BREAK THE RULE (gasp!) and head hop, like many authors do (including, infamously, one of the most successful writers in the world (Nora Roberts)), or you can follow the rule and make a one sentence scene to show that little thing, as many other successful writers would.  You’re the author.  As long as readers can tell which character’s perspective is in use at any one time, they won’t complain.

B.  Don’t Use Adverbs:
If you use significantly more adverbs than your story can support, then it can read really weird.  Usually, this can make the writing appear slightly weak.  Oddly enough, a significantly large number of writers actually use adverbs even while frequently protesting their use.
The thing is, an overuse of adverbs really does make your writing weaker (as seen in the paragraph above).  Moderate use of them, however, can be a powerful tool in the writer’s arsenal.

C.  Limit the POVs to no more than three per story:
I’ve never heard this rule, to be honest.  I can’t really comment on it, other than to say… really?  No, don’t bother with this rule.  Well, I suppose if you have a different point of view for every scene, and your 400 page book averages two or three scenes every page, and you have a new POV for EVERY SINGLE SCENE, that would be… hard to parse (though if you ever wanted to try your hand at experimental literature, there’s a suggestion for you to experiment with).  Again, moderation is key.

I could go on, citing rules from the likes of Stephen King and Elmore Leonard, but I think I’ve made my point.  The “rules” you see do come from somewhere, usually, but are usually overstated.  If you’re just careful in how you break them and apply a little moderation, you can get around just about any one of the so-called “rules of writing” that you hear.

The truth (as Kristine Kathryn Rusch points out here) is that no-one but authors think much about these rules beyond that bit of moderation and care.  That’s not to say there are no rules anyone should ever follow (you should pay attention to your grammar, although even there you have some flexibility — the University of Chicago, APA, MLA, Strunk and White, Harcourt’s, etc. disagree on several key issues; many publishing houses have their own “house style” that compiles elements of some or all of these.  And that’s just using American English — factor in the variances caused by the British and Australians (and possibly others, but those are the two I know of) having enough variance in the dialects to have their own set of grammar styles, and you’ll realize that you have a lot of options.  I’ve got my own house style, even, which I will be editing all of my works to.  Eventually.  In software parlance it’s still in Alpha, so it’ll be a while before I do that)

So, the rules exist for a reason… but the rules are also made to be broken.

So, Perhaps I Brought Back the “Weekly” Blog A Few Weeks Too Early…

So, a few weeks ago I announced that I was returning to blogging. And since then, outside of a brief status report, I’ve posted nothing.

Oops. Truthfully, I really got too busy again, and forgot to let you all know. See, I did get accepted by that anthology, but I was sent a number of editorial notes.

Sadly, I am now overdue on returning them (though that’s okay; I arranged for an extension) after I bit down on something hard (still not sure what; maybe a fork?) and broke a tooth; something that will require months of repair work, it seems. For about a week or so, at the worst possible time for that project, I was completely unable to work on much of anything thanks to the pain medication and the antibiotic I was on. At least now I’m finally almost done (though if I have enough time before my extension runs out, I might see if I can run it through a scaled-down form of my beta process again), so that’ll be out of the way soon.

But what’s brought me to come back to blogging isn’t my time freeing up again (it hasn’t, yet), but rather that I’ve received in my e-mail a draft version of the Ravencon schedule of panels.

Again, I’ve been very busy, so I haven’t made an extensive search of the panel list. And it’s a draft; I imagine there will be changes (one panel I’m scheduled to be on has over a dozen panelists on it; I imagine the numbers will be reduced before the schedule is finalized; by the time all the panelists could be introduced, the panel would be over, so I’m guessing a few writers will be cut from that panel).

For now, I’m scheduled to appear on seven different panels at the convention. The minimum is four, and it’s my first convention as a guest\attending professional\appearing professional author\whatever the convention calls it, so I asked for a lighter schedule than I thought I could handle. Seven panels is more than I asked for, but if I’m not cut from any of them I think I’ll be fine.

Assuming nothing changes (again, I expect changes) then I will be working with over two dozen other professional authors (or professionals in other author-related fields) during those three days. I’ll have two panels on Friday, one on Sunday, and four on Saturday… but none Saturday night. And the only period where I’m even slightly worried about mealtimes (something I’ve had trouble with during conventions where I haven’t even been a guest) is Friday evening, where I have two panels slipped alongside the opening ceremonies right around dinnertime, with the (guest-only; sorry!) green room meet-and-greet sandwiching them. I think a light dinner will be available at the meet-and-greet, though, so I should be okay.

Closer to the event (when the schedule is more final), I’ll break down the exact panels I’m on and everything.

Well, here’s hoping I actually finish these [expletive deleted] edits in time. I’ll TRY to post another post next week… but it took me MUCH longer to get this one out than I thought it would.

Edit:  Comments closed due to a massive attempt at spamming.  E-mail me if you want them re-opened.

Oops…

So, I forgot to write a blog last weekend… and I almost forgot to write one this weekend. I don’t really have enough time, today, to do much of anything for today’s post, but here’s a status update:

I’m still revving back up on In Division Imperiled. I’m not going to try and guess how complete it is (I always seem to embarrass myself trying to make these estimates), but I’ve done a lot on it and there’s still a lot to go.

I’ve decided to try and push The Merrimack Event out before Ravencon, but I haven’t done anything new towards that, yet — it still needs editing and cover art. It should be faster than usual to get edited, at this stage, and I don’t have the problem of needing a specific style of artwork for the cover as I do with In Division Imperiled, but I really do need to get working on that soon.

I still haven’t heard anything back about my anthology submission. Crossing fingers, here.

My hardware issues (the big one being a transition to a new laptop) are largely settled. So now I can start doing things like working\writing lunches out at my favorite sushi place (the best way for me to overcome writer’s block) and the like. Also, the keyboard of the new laptop is configured a little differently than my old one, so I’ll need to get used to it.

The blog software has only partially been updated, mostly for security purposes. Some things aren’t working, though (my statistics plug-in is completely non-functional), and they require intervention from my ISP… which I haven’t been able to contact. Once I get all that fixed, MAYBE I’ll finally be able to update the convention calendar.

Hopefully I’ll have a more interesting blog post next week. Wish me luck.

Going on a (Brief) Hiatus

Well, the good news is I’m not talking about the election (politics is forbidden on this blog!). Now for the bad news….

I’ve not been posting new blogs as regularly as I should, but not for lack of trying. Unfortunately, instead of my making this more routine, I find myself having to put this blog on hiatus until the New Year.

The reason is a good one, though: I’m just too busy. I am hoping to finish the first draft of the third volume of the Law of Swords series by Jan. 1; I’m not sure I’ll make that deadline, but I’m hopeful. And, as I’ve mentioned before, I still need to send the Merrimack Event off to the editors; I’ve been procrastinating on that one for years.

I’ve got another project with a New Years deadline, however; I was invited to submit a story to a multi-author anthology. A ten to twenty thousand word short story (really a novelette or novella) with a Dec. 31st deadline for submission. That’s a tight schedule, especially for me (I’m slow enough as it is, and I struggle with writing in the short form so much that it can sometimes take me as much time to complete a short story as it does a full-length novel).

I’m intrigued by the invitation, but obviously have some scheduling issues. I don’t want to slow my Law of Swords novel, and the season from Thanksgiving to Christmas is always full of distractions. The only way I have a CHANCE of making the deadline for the anthology without delaying my novel manuscript is to pull the writing time from periods where I usually don’t or can’t work on my novel, anyway… which is the time I usually spend working on this blog.

So, until I finish that anthology submission (or until it gets too late to submit to the anthology and I have to abandon that project), I’m putting this blog on hiatus. I can’t guarantee I can make ANY of my deadlines, but I can guarantee I won’t make any of them unless I do this. Wish me luck!

So, I had a Blog for this week…

So, I had an idea for a blog for this weekend focused on “Awards Season” (referring to both the Hugo Awards and the new Dragon Awards). The thing is, I really, really want to avoid alienating any potential audience I have, so I’d really like to avoid controversial topics on this blog… and oh, boy, have the Scifi\Fantasy awards become controversial over the years.

I thought I could write a post without touching the controversial bits — focusing largely on how midlist indie writers can just ignore the whole mess these awards have become — but… well, in the end, I couldn’t do that.

So, instead, I’ve scrapped that blog post (don’t ask for me to show it to you — I’ve already deleted it, and there was no back-up, and I have zero interest in reconstructing it) and instead decided to write one on why I don’t have a blog post this weekend.

And, because I try to plug them at least once in each of my blog posts, go ahead and buy In Treachery Forged, In Forgery Divided, and The Kitsune Stratagem if you haven’t already.  (I’d write a blog post on why you shouldn’t just continually post “Buy my book!” like this, but I think I did that already with my Self-Publishing Roundtable post on marketing.  Ah, well — it’s been a wierd week)

The BIG News! (Manage your expectations — it’s not that big)

I have good news (for me)! I want to manage your expectations a bit, though — it isn’t a new book coming out (though it may push me to try and finish up another book or two a little faster).

I’ve recieved my first ever invitation to appear as a programming guest at a convention — in this case, Ravencon. This isn’t out of the blue. I had to apply to be a guest, but I doubt that all applicants get accepted, so it’s nice to get the invite.

Now, I’ve been a PANELIST, before — I used to regularly appear as a fanfic panelist at numerous Anime conventions of various sizes (Katsucon, Otakon, AnimeUSA, and the very first Nekokon), starting in the 90s (whether it was 97 or 98, I can’t be sure) and last appearing in 2005.  And I was scheduled to appear on a panel at CapitalCon, before that convention was suddenly cancelled.  The difference (in part) is the number of panels the guest is required to appear on, the amount of promotion that guests recieve, and the expected credentials of a guest versus a panelist.

So, it’s my first appearance as a pro, the first convention where I (should) be on multiple panels, the first time I’ll be on a panel at a sci-fi convention (as opposed to an anime convention), etc., etc.

For a lot of writers, it’s just a bit of fun and an opportunity to meet their fans. At this point in MY career, however, it’s a major milestone; an acknowledgement of my bona fides by an organization that frequently deals with professional writers.

I would really like to get two more books out between now and then. Having briefly heard about my editor’s schedule over the next few months, that schedule could be tight (I use a different editor and cover artist for each series, so if I actually take the time off of writing “In Division Imperiled” to release it, I could easily push “The Merrimack Event” out in time. I’m still only half-way through the next Maelgyn book, though, and apparently the earliest the editor of THAT series can start work on it is next January. For perspective, when it came to “In Forgery Divided,” my editor started work in a September and I didn’t get it out until that March. Ravencon is in late April, so I’d need to get it done faster than that. And that’s assuming I get the book finished by January; if I take the time off to get “The Merrimack Event” out, it might take me longer than that. Sorry, I write slow).

Schedules might be tight, but I’m going to aim for that as a goal, anyway; I might not make it, but I can try.

And then all I have to do is try not to embarrass myself too badly in front of the crowds at Ravencon.

Back in the Blogging Business… Tentatively

So, I’m sure some people out there, who didn’t see my last post, are wondering where I’ve been the past few weeks. Well, I mentioned recently that I was expecting the Sunday Blogs to be less regular, but I wasn’t intending quite so long a break between posts.

Part of the problem was sheer “laziness,” I’ll have to admit. I haven’t been working on posts for this blog quite as much as I used to, because the times I normally spend on it have been cut down somewhat and I haven’t worked to free up additional time elsewhere. The bigger issue, however, was that my blog software went haywire, and I was trying to figure out how to fix it without wiping out all of my previous blog posts to do it.

I won’t go into details as to what was going wrong (a few details are in the last blog post; I was originally intending to delete that post, but I figure I’ll just leave it archived for now). Suffice it to say the problems were bad enough that any new blog posts taking more than a few minutes to write were almost impossible to add.

Things are fixed, now, however… I think. The problem seems to have been caused when my ISP tried to “update” my WordPress software, which I had already manually updated to the latest version. One update corrupted the other in a few minor ways, and suddenly the whole blog was lagging like mad, things were going haywire, and I had to temporarily disable and delete several plug-ins (I’ve now been able to re-install most of them, but I lost my entire statistical history. A relatively minor loss compared to what I’d feared, but still an issue).

But I am back in business… I hope. And just in time — I have some very good (at least for me) news to share; I just need to make things official, first. So expect an announcement next weekend, and maybe a resumption (at least an irregular one) of the Sunday Blogs.

Edit:  Comments closed to prevent spam.

Test Post

My blog software has gotten a bit wonky, which has made writing my usual Sunday Blogs next to impossible. This test post is to see if I can still edit POSTED blogs (as I appear unable to edit un-posted blogs and save that data from session to session).  Certain data and settings aren’t saving from session to session, my stats plug-in is sending me monthly statistical breakdowns in email every 30 seconds instead of every 30 days, and more. I’ve sent e-mails to various tech support providers (ISP, WordPress, and the affected plug-in authors). I’m hoping to get everything fixed soon.

This test post will remain up until I’ve got enough bugs worked out to start posting regularly again.

In Forgery Divided Now in Print… (finally!)

It may have taken two months, three proof copies, an emergency consult with my cover artist, and some frantic e-mails to Createspace to resolve the cover issue, but as readers of my Facebook page, twitter account, and\or mailing list have already heard, In Forgery Divided has FINALLY been released in Print. I’ll include a list of a few places you can get it from, below. (This post is currently in draft form; if it is accidentally posted prematurely, please note that I’m waiting for those links to be generated before adding them)

This marks the completion of any substantial work on this book, with the possible exception of some minor marketing I might do as opportunities arise. This clears the way for me to start my next writing project.

At the moment, the plan is for that project to be In Division Imperiled, the third book in that series. Past experience says such plans are worth less than the paper they are printed on (wait, they’re on my computer, not printed on paper. Though I’m not sure that makes any difference), but at any rate I’ll finally be writing again! For a writer, I don’t seem to be doing that often enough.

At any rate, here are the links to the print edition:

From Createspace

From Amazon

From (space reserved for updates as I find links)

I sometimes see people ask “which vendor would be the best to buy from for the author?”  Well, buying from Createspace gives the author the most money, Amazon gives the author mid-tier money and improves Amazon Bestseller rankings (which might help sell the book to others), and other places improve Nielson rankings (which might encourage future purchases by brick-and-mortar stores).  So… buy wherever you want for whatever reason you want.  All of it can help.