Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

April 30, 2009 -- 10:04 p.m.

And by traditional Irish folk song, I meant written about the 1916 Irish uprising...oops. I don't know if that counts or not. Incidentally, one of the Easter Uprising players' names was √Čamon de Valer. Eamon Valda?

It's like when I found out "Lugard" was a British Governor in Africa. Robert Jordan must have had an incredible grasp/memory for history or he just plucked random names out of non-fiction books he found in the library.


Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

April 30, 2009 -- 8:08 p.m.
But the bravest fell, and the requiem bell rang mournfully and clear
For those who died that Eastertide in the springing of the year
And the world did gaze, in deep amaze, at those fearless men, but few
Who bore the fight that freedom's light might shine through the foggy dew

Ah, back through the glen I rode again and my heart with grief was sore
For I parted then with valiant men whom I never shall see more
But to and fro in my dreams I go and I'd kneel and pray for you,
For slavery fled, O glorious dead, When you fell in the foggy dew.
--Foggy Dew, traditional Irish folk song

Yesterday, instead of blogging (or writing) I went to the Tulip Festival at Thanksgiving Point. Gorgeous pictures, which I will hopefully, one day, have time to Photoshop and push here. I'm thinking of trying to sell the gardens a calendar or something that they could sell in their Gift Shop. Money is as money does.

My novel's coming along swimmingly. I can do 3,000 words a day or more if I concentrate. Of course, I'll have to throw half of them out the window because they're repetitive but ah well. the only problem is, sometimes my mind can't keep up with my fingers and I write some strange things.

Oddly enough, I write faster sprawled on my stomach in front of my laptop than I do at a desk. I think my 1.5 years as a corporate word-jockey have permanently given me a fear of desks, desk job, and everything that goes with them. With a laptop, I find I can be more creative. I can let the typos flyyyyyy. So, note to writer's block sufferers, try typing on a different kind of computer and see if that jars some words loose.

I've been doing a battle scene, originally minor in the outline, it now sprawls over 10,000 words and three viewpoint characters. The problem is, battles require a heck of a lot of description and a lot of motion. They're not just static. And it just EATS the words up.

Besides, its hard not to expand things to an epic scale when you're listening to Celtic battle music. I dare you to TRY writing a short battle scene after listening to Foggy Dew (see lyrics above).

A strange side effect is that my dragonriders developed an Irish brogue. I doubt I'll keep it--I'm not very good at writing dialect, it's HARD. On the other hand, how cool are IRISH dragonriders? I mean, c'mon. You just know you'd want them swooping in to save the day.

In news, George R. R. Martin reports that filming has begun on the miniseries (for HBO I think) "Game of Thrones." I've always thought these epic fantasy series would make better miniseries than movies. I'm sure a thousand Hollywood screenwriters have knocked their heads together wondering how on earth to turn Wheel of Time into a movie. On the other hand, I think it would make a good series. Episode one: Moirane comes to town + the Trollocs attack. Episode two: Rand hauls his dad through the forest and gets him healed, boys are forced to leave. Episode three: fleeing from Trollocs, hitting Baerloen, maybe cutting out everything else until we reach the gates of Shador Logath. Episode four: Mordeth and the flight from Trollocs... Etc.

HBO did a good job with TruBlood, although I think it lost a lot of its charm in translation just because you can't capture the quirky humor inside Sookie Stackhouse's head with a corny voice-over. The Wonder Years, vampire style.

Gotten go answer email now. Audios!

Book the Sequel

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

April 29, 2009 -- 11:04 a.m.

Last post today, I promise! I'm just catching up on all the news around the genre sphere and reading the blog posts I missed. And putting off writing. Can't forget that. I'm moving along at a good clip, writing about three thousand (more?) words yesterday and aiming for the same amount today. Get done now, edit later.

However, I think this is kind of an amusing, albeit silly project.


“It turned out not to be the worst of times at all; they got so much worse later.” —From A Tale of Three Cities by Charles Dickens
Ever thought up a great hook for the sequel to classics like Catchers in the Rye or Moby Dick? Now, you can get those great first lines published without worrying about any of those headache-type issues like copyright and estates. "Book the Sequel" is a book entirely made up of first lines to sequels to classic works. The book will be a collaborative work and deadlines in May.

Learn (a little more) and submit your sequel line here.

Good Cover

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

April 28, 2009 -- 10:58 a.m.

What makes a good cover? Bright colors? Scantily clad women? I don't know. It has to catch the eye and promise me a sense of wonder--a world that is full of unique, vibrant life and creatures that strain my imagination. I want a setting that blazes with magic and power and corrupt empires. For some reason, this cover does it for me. I don't know why, since there's no people or monsters or much of a world to speak of. Something about the colors and the sword and the water. I love sailing tales--perhaps why Janny Wurts carries a special place in my heart despite the fact that nobody else seems to like her.

Perhaps its the setting sun, or the subtle highlights in the water, or the sparkles around the magic sword. All this catches my eye and makes me want to glance at the book.

The website's pretty nifty, too. Talk about great ambient sound: you have birds crying, the waves washing on shore, and an old violin whispering out its melancholy song. Definitely a cut above normal book websites. No way to see the back cover material yet, which is a seller for me, but the first line sounds good. I might have to crawl on over to the library.

Sad face

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

April 28, 2009 -- 10:32 a.m.

Just finished Lamb: the Gospel According to Biff and the sixth book of Stephen King's Dark Tower series. Both were great, but I've never seen an author write themselves in as a character before, like Stephen King did, and I found it pretentious as all get out. When I was just starting out, at 14 or so, I thought I'd always include a character in my book that was some scrambling of "Jennifer" or Guine
vere. It was going to be an Easter Egg for my readers.

Then I grew up a little and realized that the author is in all her books anyway and decided it was a really dumb idea.

Stephen King's inclusion of himself seemed completely unnecessary. I didn't throw the book across the room, but I did close it, roll my eyes, and not finish reading it for a week.

I'm sad because I thought I had a potential agent but he changed his mind. Better now than later, after we'd started working together, but it makes me feel...less hopeful. Oh well, I'll find someone to take me on. Eventually.

Nebulas were announced while I was away at my workshop.

Novel: Powers - Le Guin, Ursula K. (Harcourt, Sep07) [She still writes?]

Novella: The Spacetime Pool - Asaro, Catherine (Analog, Mar08)

Novelette: Pride and Prometheus - Kessel, John (F&SF, Jan08)

Short Story: Trophy Wives - Hoffman, Nina Kiriki (Fellowship Fantastic, ed. Martin H. Greenburg and Kerrie Hughes, DAW Books Jan08)

Script: WALL-E - Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, Original story by Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter (Walt Disney June 2008)

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy: Flora’s Dare: How a Girl of Spirit Gambles All to Expand Her Vocabulary, Confront a Bouncing Boy Terror, and Try to Save Califa from a Shaky Doom (Despite Being Confined to Her Room) - Wilce, Ysabeau S. (Harcourt, Sep08) [Great title.]

Also honored during the Nebula Award Weekend were:

A. J. Budrys — Solstice Award

M.J. Engh—Author Emerita

Marty Greenberg — Solstice Award

Harry Harrison —Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master

Joss Whedon — Ray Bradbury Award

Kate Wilhelm — Solstice Award

Writing Prompt #2 -- Evil unicorns

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

April 27, 2009 -- 5:40 p.m.

Got home from my writing convention. Boy, was it a draining week. Good, but also exhausting. Here's this week's writing exercise. I'll have to standardize the format later. I'm ready to slump into bed and sleep for three days.

Writing Prompt #2:
GENRE: Fantasy
TYPE: Character/Setting

There are certain tropes that can be found everywhere in the fantasy universe, whether its in Terry Brooks to Terry Goodkind. Some of those are races, such as dwarves, elves, fairies, etc. Take one of those races and twist it in a way that you hadn't thought of before. For instance, normally unicorns are white, gentle and have a thing for nubile young virgins. What if unicorns were the opposite of what you'd expect? Black-skinned, obsidian war-horses who are unashamedly attracted to 'loose women'? In their human form, maybe they wear black leather. If they're urban fantasy unicorns, maybe they ride Harleys and get into fistfights over who gets to sleep in the Princess' stable.

Go forth and write well.

U.S. vs. U.K.

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

April 19, 2009 -- 5:29 a.m.

Agent Kristin over at Pub Rants had as an interesting blog entry about U.S. vs. U.K. publishing and bookselling, including a demo book that has a U.S. and a British version with completely different covers and titles. I like the U.S. version myself. I guess I'm more interested in wizards than ghosts. I'm also more into the U.S. cover picture—a meeting of people plotting together—than in a little girl sitting up in a tree. To me, the British version of the cover screams Pippi Longstalking age. I'd pick up the U.S. version to look at the jacket, but the British version I'd pass on the shelf.

From Kristin's comments page, I guess I'm the minority.

Here's the link.


Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

April 18, 2009 -- 12:19 a.m.

I'm going to be down for a few days to prepare for a writing conference next week. Coming soon: reviews of the Last Herald Mage series.

Turn me on

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

April 16, 2009 -- 1:44 a.m.

Six things that make or break good SF/F (besides the basic character/dialogue/plot that doesn't suck space brains.)

1) Religions. Given that religion has pretty much powered human culture for the last...well, ever...why is it usually mistreated in SF/F? Sure, the protagonist may refer to Z'frisjahbi's left prota-megalon in his futuristic swear words, but that's about all. Why are 99% of SFF books (when they deal with the point at all) full of monotheistic, so-seldom-mentioned-they-are-hardly-there religions. The exception to this are the evil priests, who wander around in black robes doing kinky human sacrifices. Because human sacrifice has only been out of favor in European cultures since the late Roman empire, so of course the SPACE CULT will be hip to it...

Stories that do interesting things with religion: Katherine Kurtz' Deryni series, The Prince of Nothing by Scott R. Bakker.

2) Families. No one is an island to themselves, yet SF/F tends to fall under the orphan cliches. Of course, adventurers aren't likely to have kids... (unless the author needs a sequel) but don't they come home to visit their parents every once in awhile? And don't get me started on sisters...if I were a hero, I'd lock my sister in the most well-defended keep I could find and stand on the balcony with my crossbow at the ready because you just KNOW the bad guys are going to come to take her away.

Stories that do interesting things with family: The Children Star by Joan Slonczewski, Last Herald-Mage series by Mercedes Lackey

3) Non-european cultures/creatures. This is a difficult line to parse. Are Orson Scott Card's asians in Xenocide/Children of Mind interesting and accurate or a blatant, horrible stereotype? At least in Xenocide, I vote for the earlier, but I found the same author's Magic Street to be too hard to swallow and had to stop listening to it on audiobook (maybe reading it would have felt a little less jarring). Geoff Ryman's Air, which I enjoyed despite a plot that makes NO SENSE and includes a woman getting pregant via oral sex and devloping a fetus in her stomach, has a great sense of cultural awareness because the remote villagers use their remoteness to sell traditional crafts online. It's hard to do this well, and I give a lot of kudos to the authors who manage to do it right.

Another book that does it well: The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay.

4) Women who kick ass. All right, so this is a steroetype by now, but I like smart-mouthed women who kick ass. I hate when they go all weak and simpery for the main hero, though. Good characters suddenly become USELESS for no apparent reason. I'm trying to think of some good examples at the moment. I know they're out there but nothing's coming. Anne McCaffrey's pretty good at this. An addendum to this is playing with gender, ala Ursula LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness. I took a class on science fiction and gender and have a lot of good short stories that mess around with it, but not so many full-length books. Trouble and Her Friends, by Melissia Scott, is pretty much same-old-same-old cyberpunk but the lesbian protagonist is interesting. And who could forget the inesteemable Octavia Butler?

5) Humor. I love humor in writing, especially if it involves self-aware genre-bending. While a wacky trip through the bizarre is sometimes good, I also like books who take a moment to poke fun at themselves and their characters. Because reading is supposed to be, you know, fun.

Books that do it well: Terry Pratchett, Villains by Necessity by Eve Forward, Dealing with Dragons by Patricia Wrede.

6) Great villains. Nothing makes me hate a book more than a weak, easily-beaten villain. Well, there are a lot of things I hate more, but this is certainly on my top ten. Villains should be as understandable and sympthatic as their enemies. Because nobody watchs Silence of the Lambs because of Clarice. And what kind of world would we have without Darth Vader or Cthulu?

Books that do it well: Raistlin, from Dragonlance Legends by Tracy Hickman/Margaret Weiss. The Lancasters from GRRM's A Song of Fire and Ice. Agent Smith from The Matrix (okay, that wasn't a book...)

Heh. Now I've probably gone and dated myself. How many of those books have come out RECENTLY? Finding good, new books is always difficult—I tend to stick to the authors I'm fond of, plus recommendations from friends.

Star Trek Awesomeness

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

Fans are getting ready for the release of the new Star Trek movie with their usual mayhem. Including swag about the ST:TNG, the BEST Star Trek ever, IMHO.

• Ever wondered what the Mythbusters would look like in Trek uniforms? Photoshop fun here.
• The 8 worse ST:TNG episodes, from Topless Robot (I liked Rascal, though.). Yeah, there was some stupidity. But at least they didn't discover that the holy writing was actually the constitution... They missed Code of Honor. Come on, Yar vs. YAREENA??? Note: Wil Wheaton is writing for the TV SQUAD Review, and he sounds like he hates Wesley Crusher as much as the rest of us. HILARIOUS. Other bad eps: Angel One and Justice. Naked Now should be number one. The day I saw that episode, I nearly choked to death on my own bile. I'll never be able to use the word "functional" again...
• And finally, the Borghemian Rapsody. Enjoy.

Collaboration...and Zombies

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

April 15, 2009 -- 8:45 p.m.

"There is no such thing as an evil genius, as evil in itself is stupidity."
—David Farland (Ravenspell, the Wizard of Ooze)
As an April Fool's Day joke, George R.R. Martin said he was planning to collaborate with a on Dance of the Dragons, and partner Howard Waldrop was as "excited as a one-legged man at an ass-kicking contest."

Now tom-foolery aside, I wonder why some authors work so well together in collaborations. Especially spouses, like the Eddings and the Hickmans. For me, writing is so personal, it's difficult to let someone else see the work, much less allow someone else to use my precious as a punching bag. I've been a journalist, so I've had an editor slice and dice all my articles, and that's part of the process, but a pre-existing friend or worse, someone who I lived with? I think that it'd be impossible for us to stay friends after.

That's why critique groups can be so wonderful. You can find out your own blindnesses before exposing them to the harsh world of editors and agents, soiling the water with your best work. And you don't have to go home to the person afterwards. But oh! How hard it is to find the right group—a mixture of seriousness, experience and similiar tastes in subject matter. I've been writing and reading longer and with more devotion than most people my age, and so it's always been hard finding people who can offer good, constructive criticsm, and who are actually willing to give it. It's the worst thing to here "I have absolutely no suggestions! This is perfect! This is the best thing I've read in months!" etc., and then send it out and have it come back with a stack of rejections.

If you love the writing, you'll go to the effort. You'll put yourself out there and you'll take what's given. If you love your pride more, if you're not willing to learn, you'll hide in a corner slaving over your work and nobody will see it. Ever. Humility is one of the components, I think, that must go into a writer's personality.

Yet, you have to have pride, too. If your book had something something controversial, like devil worshiping or a flamboyantly gay character, and your editor says "take it out?" should you take it out? Does it damage your story beyond the point of no return. I've seen writer's blogs who complain their book flopped only because they were forced by their editors to remove the autistic brother, or whatever. When I hear something like that, I suspect something would have flopped anyway, but what if it makes the novel worthless in your own eyes? When do you fight and when do you bend?

I suppose these are things I'll learn about more when I've got an agent or editor. The important thing is to write the book the way it feels it should be first, then worry about the rest of it.

Sometimes I'll read a book by someone famous, especially in the B.A.F.S. catagory, and I'll say: where's the editor? Why didn't someone step out and say that NOTHING happened in this entire book up until part three. I won't name any names, because people living on 114 Glass Dr. should not be throwing stones, but its true.

It's something I'm mulling over as I have a critique workshop coming up. Time to let the first thirty pages of my novel sink or swim in front of a jury of my peers. This is the one that counts. I'm less nervous about myself because I know I can write well, but I am nervous about how well I'll critique. Since becoming a newspaper editor, I've been less patient with writer's egos (even my own) and less able to handle them delicately. I'd shout across the newsroom: "your story drags! Cut 15 words out of the lede!" and expect the writer to do it without any whining.

I am afraid I am the Simon Cowell of critique groups. Sure, I've got something to say, but is my head stuck too far up my assets to say it well?

And sometimes, it's worse—I know something's wrong but I don't know what, or why. "I like it, but I don't love it," I say. Any suggestions on how to make it better? Nopesidaisy.

Anyway, in other news, Guy Gavriel Kay's Ysabel is being optioned off. I've love Kay since I read Tigana in high school, but didn't particularly like the book much (I felt like the author was trying too hard to be modern, and he made the photographer sound like a rock star—YOU'RE THAT GREENDAY??? Maybe in Canada, being a famous landscape photographer gives you name recgonition, but in the Good Ol' U.S.A., you'd have to be Anne Garden of Annie Leibowitz). I could see Ysabel being an awesome movie, though.

In news: Brandon Sanderson is on the Legends Award shortlist.
Seth Grahame-Smith, author of Pride, Prejudice and Zombies has signed for a two book series, the first one being Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter!

Wonder how brave the PPZ editor must have been to take that on. I mean, that idea is messed up, but in a cool way. Copycats have gotten onto the zombie bandwagon. Help collaborate on the Zombie Bible here!

"Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth and the Zombies sprang forth from the roiling foam of creation, barking in uncontrollable rage, hungry for human flesh to eat and pestork, giving pause to our Lord who shat himself and uttered 'Oh, fuck' amidst the primordial celestial gloom."

Arm Joe

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

April 14, 2009 -- 2:42 a.m.

Weird, but free video game:

"Arm Joe," the Street Fighter game based on Victor Hugo's novel Les Miserables. Watch Cosette kick Javere's ass! I haven't played this one, but the screen shots look entertaining.

Monday Writing Prompt #1 — Ab Lincoln

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

April 13, 2009 -- 11:06 p.m.

This blog is a M-F, if you haven't noticed. Every Monday will be writing prompt day. I've noticed that temporarily stretching my mind on other projects can make me come back to a novel/short story I'm sucking on with renewed vigor. Prompting is a sure cure for writing blocks.

Title: "Ab Lincoln"
Genre: Alternative History
Type: Situation (vs. character, setting, etc.)

Instructions: Relax. Take two deeps breaths. Write "teh winner is mme" five times on your keyboard and stare at it. Accept that you will make typos. Except that your grammar won't always be perfect — first drafts can be liberating, not strangling. Now, when you feel ready, write 250-500 words on the prompt below. When there are actually people reading the blog, feel free to post your prompt in the comment spots. This is a time to mess around—to let your inner editor curl up and die. You can either write it like an essay, a short story or a series of bullet points. Punctuation is optional.

Now: Imagine what would have happen if Abe Lincoln had been born "Abagail" Lincoln. Does history make the man or does the man make history? Who would have stepped up to take Abraham Lincoln's place? Would the Civil War have been delayed, or even deterred? Would the Confederate stares have broken up anyway? Would Ulysses S. Grant ever have risen to the top? What would happen to Abagail? Would she still have felt the same sense of mission? What would have happened? Would Abagail have dressed in drag and longed for a sex-reassignment surgery, or would her body shape her expectations? And what about John Wilkes Booth—would he still shoot the next guy, or would he go on to have a successful stage career? What would the ramifications be on our modern world. What would have been different if Abe Lincoln hadn't been born in his log cabin, but on a southern plantation?

Done? You don't have to answer all the questions—in fact, you can make up your own questions and answer them. But this is what I'm thinking about today.

Finish before going onto the next section, which relates this prompt to your current project.

Okay, now think about how the characters in your own story. How much of their greatness comes from within them and how much from the circumstances? Are their actions dictated by their gender? How much social mobility do they have? If your hero stepped back, would the Gods of Kleptash just move on to the next guy? What happens to the next guy? How do the history of our characters shape our characters?

The bottom line is: what are the things that make your character unlike any other? What are the circumstances that make the conflict? What brings the two together? These are the most fundamental problems left unaddressed in beginning writing (and some older writer's too). It's like a mystery novel: even in speculative fiction, we need to have everything all wrapped up and rational, even if real life isn't rational.

First Post

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

April 10, 2009 - 4:41 a.m.

'...[R]eavers talk by making smells,' Averan said. 'The philia on their faces lets them "listen" to each other, and the ones above their bungholes make smells.'

A skeptical lord crowed, 'So you're telling us that they talk out their asses?'

'Yes,' Averan said. 'In that way, they're not too different from some people.'

—David Farland, Wizardborn
Hello, my name is Jennifer McBride and this is my blog (duh, right?). I'm an aspiring writer with two unpublished novels under my bed. "Practice" is what I call them. Numero tres, roughly titled "Godsplay," is 10,000 words and counting and will be my break-out novel, when it's finished.

But until you see me at Barnes and Noble elbowing all the other fantasy books out of the way with my B.A.F.S. (big-ass fantasy series), you can find me here, wasting my time in beautiful, bloggish nothings. I have a couple of short stories published, and hopefully more in the pipeline, though the state of the economy's made things more difficult, at least according to some people I know.

In my day job, I was a newspaper reporter. I was promoted to editor less than a year after I was hired, but I left for a job that wouldn't destroy my health, family life, etc. Since then, I've been freelancing my writing, design and photography. I have two awards in page design to my credit.

Most of the time, I'll be talking about the books I love, the community I inhabit, and the craft I adore. I'll start my blogs with a quotation of DOOM!!! from whatever book I'm reading at the moment (see above). Though sci-fi/fantasy is my drug of choice, I also love history (especially HERstory), mystery and generally anything that has to do with...well, anything. Board games are my idea of a good time.

If I ever actually comment on my real life, the stories are likely to be completely, utterly fictional. Why can't blogs have subplots? For instance, when I can't think about anything else, maybe I'll share steamy secrets about my invisible boyfriend, Fred.

I mean, think about it...what would it be like to have sex with the INVISIBLE WOMAN?

"No, left....left...right...ri—THAT'S MY ANKLE, YOU IMBECILE!"

Haha. For readers, juvenile humor is definitely a must. Worksafe-ness? Mostly.