Saturday, September 29, 2007

Vampires Just Won't Die

Daughter Number One went to the emergency room last night and that provided me with a chance to watch some new show on CBS about vampires. This brings us an interesting phenomena that has applications to the writing world. Just about every fantasy agent and publisher says no more vampire stories and yet here we are. These things just do not die. I keep a close eye on the Just Released shelf at B&N and I don't think a week ever goes by without a vampire story on it. They're everywhere. I don't see what the appeal is since I don't read them; I have my suspicions but this is a family blog. In any event, somebody in the publishing world must be accepting these manuscripts and that brings me to the point of this post. Are these vampire stories really 'fresh and different' like most writers guidelines demand? Or are they simply rehashes of every vampire trope ever done. (They've even been portrayed as alien beings and genetic mutations so that science fiction writers/readers could have their fun as well. But in the end it's always the same kind of stuff.) I have a feeling that vampires are on a certain wave of popularity now and the publishing world will keep them there as long as possible.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Writing Lessons From Dune

As I seem to do often, I've started reading two books at once. I found a nice looking hardback copy of Dune by Frank Herbert on the special rack at Borders. I sat there and read it for a while and then decided to buy it. I first read the book when I was a kid and I remembered thinking it was incredibly boring. I skipped through huge chunks of text trying to find the battle scenes. That's a lot like how I read The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Since Tolkien grew on me with age I figured I'd try Herbert again as well.

The book is very good and there are a few lessons to be drawn from it:

1. Herbert shifts POV to several different characters within the same scene. I think it works fairly well and it is leading me to lighten up on the strict point of view rules I've grown accustomed to.

2. The chapter headings have quotes from future history books written about the period about to be covered. Some would say this lessens the impact of the various plot twists but I think it's really cool. You know what's about to happen and you're anxious to find out how.

3. Herbert uses extensive direct thoughts in italics. You just don't see that very often anymore but I think it helps effectively unveil the character.

I'm sure there are other lessons as well but none I could find by page 65.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Another Triond Update

My series on Life Lessons From the Marines has netted me an earth shattering 52 pennies for August/September. It's further proof that you can get paid by Triond for posting content on their sites. It's also further proof that you don't make enough to quit your second job. I've got one more article to post on Combined Arms and then I might start tackling current events that can be handled the Marine Corps way.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Trip Through the Tri-Cities

Well, what can I say about the Tri-Cities? A couple of cool bridges. Hanford nuclear facility. Zip's Burgers. Poor little West Richland hanging out there as the fourth city in the Tri-Cities Metropolitan Area.

I was in and out of town in about six hours so there was a lot of driving but not a lot of sight seeing. There does look like a lot of potential for a branch of some kind so it was a good trip. The mission I was assigned was accomplished and some good intelligence was gathered. Now we just have to move on to implementation. (And that always seems to be the hardest part.)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Not So Evergreen State

I'm here in Eastern Washington again, scouting out potential prospects for my company's expansion plans. It was a long drive this morning and after passing through Moses Lake... I may have to apologize to the city of Yakima.

Today was Spokane and tomorrow will be the Tri-Cities. The last time I was in Spokane was for the '76 World Expo. (Or was it '74?) No matter, I don't remember a thing. What I've found during my quick trip is that Spokane has the following:

1. Lots of old brick buildings in the downtown core, which is cool.
2. Lots of graffiti on anything that remains stationary for longer than 42 seconds, which is not so cool.
3. Far too many one way streets.
4. Barnes & Noble.
5. Gonzaga University (which is embarrassing for me to say but I had no idea where exactly it was all these years.)
6. Interminable waits for trains along Havana St.
7. At least one rainy day per year.

There were other things I noticed as well but those mostly have to do with the number of underground utility contractors there are and that just isn't nearly as entertaining.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Mars Hill Classified

This series is an excellent one and it is featured in this month's CSFF tour. The particular book today is The Return by Austin Boyd. The series centers around one of my favorite science fiction topics: Mars and life thereon. You just can't go wrong with stuff like this.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Writing Lessons From a Rainy Sunday

Sunday produces other things in this house except watching Peyton Manning embarrass the 'Defense of the Week.' This morning I woke up early enough to go running in the rain and write a bit more of my current novel attempt. I had a scene in mind and it had gotten to the point where I felt I could write it. The scene involves a new character that I want to add to the story, a bad guy that will be the main character's foil, and I had envisioned an extended conversation with a goodly amount of detail. What happened was something different. This lesson goes along the lines of previous ones where I point out that you should say what you need to say and then shut up. I got to the halfway point of the planned conversation and realized that it was an excellent stopping point. (I was also running out of time before the kids woke up.) The rest of what was said could remain unsaid. This creates more suspense as the reader tries to figure out what might happen next. I know how the scene went but the reader doesn't have to until later.

So next time you're writing, try cutting a scene in half and see what you're left with. It might work for you as well.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Gardens Goes All Middle Eastern On Me

Gardens of the Moon is holding up fairly well. The second part has opened up with the action shifting to the quasi Middle East city of Darujhistan and an assassin's guild war that is fought along the shadowy rooftops of the city at night. There is a very annoying character that appears to be central to the action and I'm hoping he gets killed off very soon. The pace of the book is slowing but it is still interesting enough to hold my attention. The writing is good and Erikson has several cool way of turning a phrase. The characters from the first part were really starting to grow on me so I hope they get back on stage soon.

In other news, I've got two things I'm trying to write this weekend. One is a time travel flash fiction piece that is taken from a story I wrote about fifteen years ago. The other is a new scene with a new character in my slowly simmering novel Broken.

Monday, September 10, 2007

New Life Lessons

I've started adding more articles to my series on Life Lessons From the Marines. They can be found at the link here or to your right. Once again, if your life is all screwed up (and statistics say that everybody else's life is) you can find help. Apply these principles for the ages and your problems will either melt away or be consumed in the pryoclastic glory of an M18A1 Claymore mine.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Identifying the Middle of Nowhere: A Comparative Methodology

Method One: Define nowhere. It is typically a barren wasteland filled with unending rolling vistas of scrub trees and brown grass. If you find yourself driving through it you must keep a careful count of abandoned wellhouses and dirt roads. This is your track to the middle. When they thin out to four per mile you are getting close. There will also be a marked increase in beer cans, always domestic, and plastic grocery bags swirling in dust devils. Eventually you will be filled with a sense of impending dread and hopelessness. You have arrived.

Method Two: Look for a sign on the road that says 'Yakima, Washington.'

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Anatomy of a Thorough Proposal

Well I've given my best shot at the required new version of a proposal for 1000 Things About Me. It is now in the hands of the United States Postal Service and the unpredictable whims of the Mail Truck Faeries. If it arrives safely then I should know within six weeks if I am due for boundless fame and glory or something far short of that. I have plumbed the depths of my brain to come up with more stuff to put in the proposal and I think I came up with some valuable verbiage. If nothing else, this exercise has helped me focus on what I really think this list is and what the marketing angle should be. If crossing fingers did anything to influence the fae, I would do it.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Fairy v. Faerie

I suppose I should explain why I use two different spellings for faerie. To me, they're two different things. 'Fairy' describes a Disneyish magical being, quite small, that is pretty and happy and beaming with light. They dance and fly and are really only useful as window dressing in stories I tell my daughter.

'Faerie' describes a being of ancient myth and eldritch magic. They are not happy all the time. They can be rather spiteful. They have no problem playing tricks on mortals that end up Very Badly for said mortals. I also refer to them as 'The Fae' when discussing them in general. This is intentionally done in order to make them sound a bit spookier. By giving them free will and potentially malevolent natures, they become much more interesting as story devices.

So that's why the two spellings. Maybe some day I'll also describe why I think gray and grey are two different colors.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Not Quite As Interesting
LogoThere are
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?