Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 29, 2009 -- 5:25 p.m.

Feeling better. A boy brought me roses when I was sick and had to cancel a date. He gets extra points for them being yellow. Peace roses are my favorite, but yellow roses are the second. I'll post my impressions from CONduit tonight.

"Neither of them noticed when the heart the Azerii had carefully laid aside for later disposal gave one last feeble beat and died."

And with that cryptic line (cryptic since no one but me knows what an Azerii is or why they'd be interested in beating hearts until you read my story) draft one of Godsplay is FINISHED.

Total estimated words: 121,500 words. Or 486 pages of double-spaced 12 point courier,.

I'm not letting anyone read it now because the story makes absolutely no sense and the plot did a sidewinder turn in the middle. But in a month or two, I'll be calling for volunteers to help me go through the whole novel, revised beginning to revised end.

I should feel more relief than I actually feel. I think the real relief will come when I'm satisfied with the re-edit of the final confrontation of the book. It needs to be more spectacular.

Maybe I'll be satisfied when I'm signed for a three book deal. Look out world, because the first chapter/prologue of God's Pawn is already done!


Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 26, 2009 -- 10:49 p.m.

Gah, I hate being sick.

The end of draft one of God's play is close enough to spit at. We're in the middle of the FINAL CONFRONTATION (duhn, duhn, duhn!!!!). I'll be sad to let it go. It'll be like leaving all my friends behind.

I am wondering if I made the right decision, plot wise. Brandon Sanderson's first book clocked in at 200,000 words (250,000 pre-edit). Maybe I should have shot for a better, longer story. Not necessarily better though. I like the fact that I'll have a whole book to play around with life in the Caalbehl, capital of the Shedal (Khidal? Khadel?) Empire.

I think I'm going to change just about every name that doesn't belong to the major characters.

One side effect of the shortened novel is there is a lack of male POV characters. I almost threw in a random stable boy to make things more even but figured, eh, it won't really add much. Hopefully, it won't matter. We have a male fire mage, a male spy/sculptor, a male-ish villain and a male grandfather (as opposed to a male grandmother). There's also the male dragonrider, though he never has a POV. I like the brogue, but it's so hard to write. I wonder if there's a way to make it easier. I'll been thinking of trying to find someone who can do a passable accent and having them record all of Iveren/Irwin's lines so I can then type things out phoenetically.

Would you believe that I got a character named Rachell on WoW but I couldn't get the names Thaya or Eoni? Huh.

Writing Prompt #6: The shape of memory

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 25, 2009 -- 11:11 p.m.

Title: "Memory"
Genre: Any
Type: Setting/characterization

This is another worldbuilding one. Or characterization. Whatever floats your boat.

In honor of memorial day, I want you to write about and think about how memory has shaped you as a person. How has memory formed you? Would you be the same person if you had different memories? If you woke up with no memories at all, would you be different? Yes, obviously, but how? What restraining influence has memory had on you? Has past experience made you frightened or overly cautious?

For example, my memories of being taunted by my classmates as a child, of having my confidences betrayed by people who called myself "my friends" have made me more shy and reluctant about sharing personal things about myself. On the other hand, I also have memories of how wonderful my friends have been, how supportive they've been in hard times, so I know that they're worth the risk.

A lot of characters seem to come onto the pages with no memories, no past. They have been shaped by a few key points and details, but the ordinary, every day tragedies and successes seem like they're missing from their lives. What are some of the memories that have shaped your character?

A big difference between America cultural (Caucasian, anyway) and other countries, like, say Iran, is that we don't obsess about history as much. Other peoples live in the past, but most people don't even know the date of the civil war (myself included--I have a horrible memory for that kind of thing, even though I'm interested in it). That's good in some ways and bad in other ways.

What place would memory have in an alien society? Is it important? Can they share memories psychically? How would that change their actions/culture? What would be the same? What if the aliens had no memories at all? What if they focussed, exclusively, on the here and now? It's not as farfetched as it seems: there are some mentally disabled kids who seem to have difficulty understanding change. If something IS, it must always have been that way. You can move a block from one stack to another and they'll think that the block has always been in the second stack.

Could there be any advantages to this kind of thinking? How would it affect alien/human negotiations/commerce/war?

For further reading, I'd recommend Guy Gavriel Kay's book Tigana, where a sorcerer tries to wipe out not just a people, but their very memory. It's so essential, it's no surprise people are willing to kill for it and die for it.


Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 23, 2009 -- 7:54 p.m.

I'm at CONduit. It's fun to do the fanboy thing. The problem is, that the question I want to ask is: how do I become you? And I don't like the answer, because it involves hard work and sacrifice. I'll write up a short summary of some things I learned at the CON later.

With the big book almost done, the question becomes: register for WorldCon or not? Or wait? Or submit to agents.

But first: revise. And I have some new, good ideas.

It's fun when authors disagree. "A page = 250 words"
"No, microsoft word count is the thing."


Strong vs. weak verbs

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 21, 2009 -- 12:47 a.m.

Are strong verbs dying? I didn't know what they were until I read the post, but I'll be sad to see them go.

Saw Pirates of the Caribbean II for the second time. It helped that this time around, I could understand them through the muddled diction (why is it that movies these days seem to value ambient sound over actually HEARING the dialogue? I rarely go to movies anymore because I get lost in the mumbling. Albeit, mumbling from some very nice eye candy). Still wasn't my cup of tea--too much suspension of disbelief necessary. Round cages? Three way sword fights where NO ONE gets injured?

And Keira Knightly totally looks like she's about to eat Johnny Depp, not kiss him, which I found a little creepy.

Then again, Captain Jack Sparrow with ANY woman is a little creepy. Please, Jack, come out of the closet! I'll still love you. Especially if you and Jude Law...

Ooh, I ought to save some of that imagination for my novel. One can only hope for the pictures to turn up on the internet. Sigh.

Stamps, Fire and Ice

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 21, 2009 -- 12:28 a.m.

Neil Gaimon had an interesting writing assignment. He wrote the stories for stamps for the British mail. Wonder how you go about writing those?

I love him for writing the words "George R.R. Martin is not your bitch."

As a reader, I know the frustration of waiting for books. That's why I usually avoid starting a B.A.F.S. that isn't done yet. Is that hypocritical of me, wanting readers to buy my stuff while not wanting to take the risk myself? Probably. Eh, what can you do. People are complex.

But I was always amazed about the amount of vitriol you'd sometimes see on message boards. I remember one reader talking about how much he wished Robert Jordan, master of the Wheel of Time, would die so some other author would pick up the series and actually move the work along. If someone said that publicly, the private correspondence he got must be poisonous.

I wonder if he felt guilty when Jordan did die.

The fact is, writers do the best they can. I'll slave on my B.A.F.S. until I die, but I'm a member of the MTV generation and my attention's bound to wander. If I want to take a break to write a Conan novel, I'd wish my readers could be grateful for the hours of entertainment I'd given them and wait with scarcely concealed impatience to strip the next book from the shelves.

I love books, I love writing, but writing's not like building a house. Or, if it is, would you want your contractor to be distracted? Maybe nail the toilet to the ceiling because he/she wanted to get the job done faster?

Speaking of fast, I'm totally going to be one of those novelists who can churn out one every two months. I type an average of 3,000-8,000 words a day. Godsplay's two and a half chapters away from being finished (now weighing in at a cool 109,000 words) and it's an even dice roll whether I can get it done before CONduit this weekend.

Of course, there's still revision. And finding an agent. And finding a publisher. Maybe writing the thing was the easy part.

Ugly Betty

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 21, 2009 -- 12:09 a.m.

You know what I hate about the show Ugly Betty?

SHE'S NOT UGLY. You can put a pretty person in glasses, braces and a silly wig and she'll still have a nice complexion, good eyes and a nice enough set of legs. Instead of, let's see, actually having a realistic person, why do we need yet another pretty girl pretending she's not actually pretty? Does anyone really believe Jennifer Anniston would actually end up with Ross in real life?

Well, one can only expect so much from the magic box, I suppose.

Lit vs. Good Lit

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 20, 2009 -- 3:02 a.m.

Great essay by Orson Scott Card on the difference between "literature" and "volunteer-read literature."

I totally agree with everything. It's like he took my complaints against all the English departments I've ever been faced with and said everything I wanted to say in an articulate way that didn't /majors involve the words "hordes of pretentious barbarians."

If any English departments or majors are reading this, you can be assured that I'm not talking about you :)

PW goes down a notch.

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 20, 2009 -- 2:40 a.m.

PW sells cover as advertisement. Ugh. How those authors on the left got chosen? They forked out almost $10,000. Sheesh...

In the newspaper business, this would never fly. Readers would have hacked my paper apart.

Food of Doom

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 20, 2009 -- 2:28 a.m.

Hey, pics are working! The Science Fiction cuisine blogger over at tried and failed at making Star Wars cuisine.

I totally want to eat Bobba Fett-icine.

Good cause

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 20, 2009 -- 2:23 a.m.

These guys are doing a book drive for the juvenile jail in LA County, which has NO library. NOT A SINGLE BOOK. I think it's a great project, so if you can help out, help out.

I wonder if it'll work. You can lead a horticulture but you can't make her think... (sorry, prostitutes.)

This is what happens when I run behind on my blogging and my news from the Interweb.

Another Utah Author Makes Good!

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 20, 2009 -- 2:10 a.m.

Got a kid who liked Twilight? Appilynne Pike from Spanish Fork, Utah, who I met at a conference, just debuted at #6 on the NYT bestseller's list for her YA book Wings. GO DONS!

I had a hard time finding an amazon link because of Wings the T.V. show. D'oh... Looked like it worked out for her anyway.

Okay, for some reason blogger isn't doing images today, so I'll have to let you see her lovely book cover via the link.

The summary: Fifteen-year-old Laurel has led a sheltered, homeschooled life in a very small town, so when her parents decide to move and enroll her in high school, she has trouble getting used to her new life. A life, as it turns out, that’s not at all like those of other kids. One clear sign is a winglike blossom that blooms on her back. Oh, and her new best friend, the scientifically minded David, reveals under a microscope that her cells are more plant than animal. But it takes an encounter at her old home with the handsome but decidedly different Tamani to convince her that she is a faerie. She also learns it’s up to her to save her land from the evil influences that are trying to take it away from her and her family. This first novel is clearly designed to attract the Twilight set, though there’s significantly less edge (and blood). There is, however, a familiar triangle. Will Laurel choose solid, steady David, or will she be unable to resist Tamani’s lure? Stay tuned. Fine escapist fare, this neatly mixes the everyday with the otherworldly. Grades 6-9. --Ilene Cooper

"In the current crop of supernatural romances, this one stands out. Silky narration...delicious escapism." (Kirkus Reviews)

Sigh, I want my readers to say "homg...homg... when are we going to see forestboy again?"

Well, maybe not quite like that. She has a nice post about what it's like being a NYT bestseller here.


Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 20, 2009 -- 1:58 a.m.

Yours truly, playing soccer. You can get a sense of my awkwardness from the chicken wing arms. And here, here, here, here, here, totally tripping, cool move (not mine), charge!, here, here (see, I can keep up with the boys), I think it just ricocheted off my stomach (that one HURT), or maybe this is it, still tripping, and who's hot butt is that? Oh yeah. Mine. :)

Hey, I actually get to the ball this time!

Hmm, I should cut my hair.

Maybe I'll have better luck at ultimate frisby (winning touchdown, oh yeah!).

EE Guest

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 20, 2009 -- 1:20 a.m.

One of my synopsis got chosen as a "Guess the Plot" on Evil Editor two weeks ago. If you haven't visited the site yet, click over there now. I love "Guess the Plot" most because I so rarely get it right. There are a lot of people submitting plots for books in query letters that I'd never in a million years think would work as a book. But, each writer their own, eh?

Basically, he's critiquing query letters, so if you have a finished book and think your pitch needs improvement and you're willing to let him rip you in public (I think Miss Snark was much crueler, sorry EE) head on over. Also, he does openings.

Anyway, guess the right plot, and, in mean time, guess which one is yours truly here. The real query's a bit of a mess...a 37,000 word religious novel that follows a guy from teenager to saving the world after death? Wow, I'm tempted to buy the self-published novel just to see how he does it. I can't even get a character to sneeze in less than 65 pages, lol. (Then again, it's a fantasy setting, so maybe Rachell sneezes in technicolor...)

Hint: my plot wouldn't make a bad idea for a movie...

Answer _ #4 _. Run the mouse between the dashes to see the inverted color.

Coretta Scott King Awards

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 20, 2009 -- 12:59 a.m.

Tip o' the hat to Lee Ann for pointing out an interesting discussion over at Editorial Anonymous about the Coretta Scott King Awards, which are specially for black writers and illustrators. At the time they were established, Editorial argues that race-based awards were a good thing, but maybe the time has come to change it so that it's open to writers of all races who promote civil rights. She also feels that its excluding people who can write about the black community and black issues but don't happen to identify as black.

I don't know about this one. I think there's enough problems with literacy in the American black community to justify giving more attention to black authors, perhaps to draw in more black readers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average black American spends an average of $54 a year on reading materials compared to the average white person's $137 (which is ridiculously low. I spend that much just at Christmas buying books for other people...)

In 1996, the NAEP reported that 69% of black American 4th graders were reading below-level, in comparison with 40% from their white counterparts. I can't find any better statistics at the moment, and maybe the trend has completely reversed in recent years for all I know, but I'll make the possibly erroneous assumption that a smaller percentage of black kids are reading for fun than white kids. And as we all know, reading for fun must lead to a successful, awesome career, right?

(Ha ha ha, says the unemployed writer...well, there are exceptions to every rule...)

I admit that awards probably won't actually help young students get more interested in reading, but hey, anything that draws parents and kids to new black authors could be worth a try, right?

And Editorial Anonymous makes the point that you don't have to be black to write about the black viewpoint. True. Memoirs of the Geisha was written by a white male. On the other hand, when I tried to read Orson Scott Card's Magic Street, I couldn't get through it because I felt awkward. I have seen Orson Scott Card. I read his website. For me, I couldn't help but think every other sentence "A white man is writing this." It just got in the way of enjoying the book. Whether he portrayed the community accurately or not didn't matter, because I just couldn't get into it. Which was odd because I've read OSC's Chinese, Jewish, American Indian (which did seem fairly accurate from my experience as a white outsider on a reservation), Spanish and, heck, even Dutch characters without having a problem. I guess because I'm (perhaps overly?) sensitive to the unique position of blacks and black culture in America.

But the big point is, these aren't mutually exclusive awards. Someone could establish a general civil rights promotion award, as EA wanted, and the CSK awards could continue as they are now. Eliminating racism doesn't mean not admitting race exists and ending race-based awards. It means eliminating disparities, and one way of doing that is, one hopes, getting black kids better teachers, better schools, better jobs and better books.

But I'll admit that I'm not an expert on this topic by all means. That's just my two cents based on my gut reaction. And I may be biased because I think Octavia Butler deserved all the awards she could get. I always liked reading her and I wished she'd done better commercially.

Random factoid: The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that 17 more Ku Klux Klan chapters were added in the U.S. between 2004 and 2005, bringing the KKK a total of 179. That's almost a 10.5% increase in one year! Maybe they just split a bunch of cells or something. One can hope. Even if they're kind of like the Boy Scouts now in terms of civic projects (or so my Texan teacher told me) nothing good can come of building a foundation in the sands of descrimination (biblical pun...couldn't resist.)

Good thing I have about three readers or I'd probably have flames burning my eyes out about now.

Legitimization of science fiction?

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 19, 2009 -- 11:56 p.m.

Hey! It's still Tuesday. So this post still counts for not missing a day. W00T!

One of these days I'll set up my wireless network and I'll go where no blogger has gone before.

I've been thinking about how many movies are actually science fiction/fantasy in disguise. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," for example, which, though published earlier, rode into production on the coattails of "The Time Traveller's Wife." Science Fiction stories are usually defined by "what-ifs." What if we could travel faster than life? What if a disease wiped everything out and we were forced to return to subsistence farming? What if you could ride a sandworm?

These are the immortal questions that actually shape science fiction. So, in Time Traveller's Wife, you've got: unexplained disease and you've got time travel. So why is it in the general fiction section?

Stephen King's Dark Tower series features a gunslinger fighting robots and wizards and mutants (oh my!) yet it's also in the general fiction section.

Of course the answer to the 'why' isn't really all that academic. Though I'm not in publishing, I bet it was a question of selling better.

I liked Time Traveller's Wife (although I was slightly disappointed at the time--when I read it, no book could live up to that kind of hype, part of the reason I still haven't gotten around to reading Twilight) but I think it fit better in general fiction because it focused less on the science and more on the relationship. It was a love story with an inexplicable twist force-fed with genetics and not remotely plausible but still very interesting. But would the regular science fiction audience enjoy it as much? I don't know.

Whereas Stephen King's fans wouldn't know to look for his books in the science fiction section so the Dark Tower's lumped with the rest of them. And since the only horror lately seems to be paranormal romance, that slips him into general fiction.

But here's a different point--why do critics snub "sci-fi/fantasy" as a genre but seem to accept and even adore general fiction with a sci-fi/fantasy twist. Suddenly, it becomes original. (Perhaps a new genre, called science 'lit'-tion? Much cooler sounding than literary sci-fi in my opinion).

So will s-f/f one day penetrate the mainstream book reviews, one day reaching, ahem, 'critical mass?' I don't know, but books with slight, shifting elements like these could be the camel's nose inside the tent. If the literary establishment doesn't watch out, will the new Lloyd Biggle Jr. and Isaac Asimov be reviewed beside the latest Salman Rushdie?

And ps, ugh on sci-fi channel's new name. Syfy? I get the reasons, but ugh.

Writing Prompt #5 -- taboo. (Not the party game)

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 18, 2009 -- 9:12 p.m.

I should make up a label just for excuses. Mostly, I've just been tired. And I took my cousins out to the sand dunes, and I've been having lots of activities in a new church.

It has always been really hard for me to make friends. I'm a very self-conscious person and I don't have much to talk about since I'm not "plugged-in" culturally. I rarely watch T.V. or movies. Most of the day I sit at my computer, being generally a boring person. So I fail at the small talk. I run out quickly. "So what have you been doing all week?"

Writing. Godsplay reached its 90,000th word today (probably closer to 94,000) so we're almost to the finish line. Hurrah! The problem is, I have to revise everything because I basically snapped the plot in thirds. That leaves things a little incomplete. I'm actually happy about it, because I realized that either I was going to have to slice up characters or do sequels, and I'd rather do sequels.

Enough with the excuses. Let's have today's writing prompty-ness.

Title: "Taboos"
Genre: Any
Type: Setting

Every culture has its taboos, be them religious, cultural, or whatever. Some people have taboos around certain foods. For example, most cultures have a taboo against eating other people. I think David Eddings had a culture that violated that taboo, much to the disgust of some other cultures.

Often, fiction books feature clashes between two distinct cultures. You can make the culture clash even more painful by featuring taboos. What if you have a party and one member violates a taboo that disgusts everyone else? More conflict, even if it's beneath the surface, is always a good thing when it comes to books. How does one explain the inexplainable--like if someone just thinks "eww," but they can't explain why it's "eww?" Survivor episodes have been dedicated to the grossness of eating chicken feet/brains, etc. Grubs as local delicacies.

Mmm, I'm on a food thing tonight. What about taboos as places? Your adventurers need to go to a local temple to save the world, but it will make them outcasts as doing so. In my book, there are a whole caste of untouchables, ala Indian culture, who handle the dead. Taboos can be useful class conflicts, race conflicts. Interracial marriage taboos? Piercing taboos? Anything can be a source of depth to your world.

And you don't even have to have cross-culture clashes. My family had some personal taboos that other families don't. I have some personal taboos--like I don't drink milk and I don't like to watch other people drink milk. I don't know why, it just grosses me out for no apparent reason.

Think of some of the taboos you might want to explore, something to round out your characters and settings. Describe them and, if you want, also describe why that taboo developed. It could be a mythological story or an evolutionary reason--for example, maybe the A'rreoskites have a taboo against eating brains because it spreads "mad dragon disease" or the equivilent.

Anyway, they don't have to be taboos that would make sense to us. The most interesting cultures can be polar opposites to our own, as long as they are believable and comprehensible. If they're alien, they don't have to be believeable.

"Don't put your finger in his splooit! That's taboo!"

And this is how classic drinking games get born.

How Gene Roddenberry got his agent

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 12, 2009 -- 1:51 a.m.

Don't do this.

Is publishing sexist?

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 12, 2009 -- 1:38 a.m.

There's a good discussion on whether or not publishing is sexist over on this blog. I thought there were some very interesting points on how school kids grow up reading male authors as "classics" and so assume women can't write. Though I don't know if that's true any more. Still, the only "classic" I can think of offhand by a woman is How To Kill A Mockingbird. Which pretty much beats the rest, IMHO.

I don't agree that Paranormal Romance being excluded from horror is sexist. I just don't think its...horrible. It's Buffy the Vampire slayer vamping it up in black leather tights. You don't see them ripping each other's eyes out or engaging in pornographic child beating. In horror, if you see a woman putting on make-up, she's going to be eaten or stabbed for being such a whore. Horror is (usually) the reaffirmation of social principles regarding women and their place in society, punishing the "sinners" and protecting the "pure," but Paranormal Romance is about enjoying sexuality and kicking (and kissing) vampire butt.

But is there a reason Jim Butcher hit #1 NYT bestselling list over some other urban fantasy/paranormal writers? (Not saying he didn't deserve it, I love-a me the Dresden) I suspect it has less to do with him being male and more to do with it not being a Sookie Stackhouse/Twilight clone.

Still it's an interesting discussion. And pertinent, since I'm debating whether to use my initials. I love my name, though, and I think I'll write under it. It's the right thing to do, or that's the way I'm leaning at the moment.

Ten worst stories

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 12, 2009 -- 1:23 a.m.

Scottish novelist Alan Campbell posted his "ten worst stories". It's pretty hilarious. We had a "worst poetry" day in a critique group once that I found hilarious.

My worst ever story I think was the one where the good guys escaped from prison by cleaning. Turns out the walls were made of dust! (I think I was like 8 years old at the time.)

My worst idea was to have the plot entirely decided by dice rolls. I'd roll a die to determine whether the heroes won or lost every encounter. The story quickly ended after they lost and died after the first roll.

What are your worse?

Alternate History: SF or not

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 11, 2009 -- 4:32 p.m.

It's the question that's plagued philosophers for ages: what is Alternative History? Is it science fiction or not?

To me, I like what I like, and I don't like what I don't like, so it doesn't matter if Alternate History is fantasy, science fiction, or the desperate attempt of some authors to destroy the categorization system entirely. Heck, maybe it's even a conspiracy by a group of rabid, flying squirrels?

Still, I've heard some people arguing about it, and maybe I've participated in the discussion a time or two, so if you want to argue about it, discuss at the link above at

Writing Prompt #4: Help! My mother's a demon!

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 11, 2009 -- 1:31 p.m.

Title: "De-mom"

Genre: Fantasy
Type: Character

This Monday writing prompt goes out in honor of mother's day.

We've all had moments where we wish our mother could just disappear in a cloud of smoke? Where what if she ACTUALLY could? What if, for all your life, it turns out your mother was masquerading as a human but she actually was a demon.

Now, is she an evil demon? A satanic, red-skinned, horned corrupt beast from Christian mythology or a fantasy demon, one of the lovably stupid monsters whose only purpose is to kill everything in sight? Is she reformed, or is she playing at being human for nefarious reasons. Did she have a child because she fell in love or are you and your siblings just plot pieces in her twisted game against the Gods? And what is she going to do when she finds out YOU KNOW.

Now, find the characteristics in your mother that you consider "demonic" and exaggerate them. Maybe your reformed escapee mother (who fled the netherworld so her child wouldn't be sacrificed on an evil alter) has always been obsessed with cleaning because she knows her former lord and master uses creepy-crawlies to spy. Maybe that's why she's afraid of cockroaches, too. They aren't just carriers of disease that might hurt her sweet, gooey baby, but they're also the minions of evil.

And what about you? Are there any demonic powers you wish you could have? What would you do if you could levitate or conjure sulfuric smoke or that sort of thing. How would you interact with your mother. Would you compete against her for dominance if your powers weren't as developed as hers? Would you feel resentful because you never got a chance to use them before because she made the decision of keeping you ignorant.

The point of this exercise is to draw what you know from real life and warp it slightly. That's how you create true characters.

But always remember the words: motivation, motivation, motivation! A plot springs out of a realistic character's motivations, so you have to always keep it in mind.

Urchin adventures

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 8, 2009 -- 8:05 p.m.

Oh, it turns out I just wasn't eating sea urchin, I was eating sea urchin testicles. Cheap sea urchin testicles. That's what they looked like (but it's someone else's picture. Mine didn't look quite that gross, but it was a close thing).


Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 8, 2009 -- 7:51 p.m.

So I drove 1 hour to a science fiction convention that actually takes place two weeks from today. Talented, eh?

And today I tried raw sea urchin for the first time. One of my life goals is to taste anything that any culture considers edible at least once (or at least the most exotic fare, though even I might not be able to handle "corpse fruit," which Anthony Bourdain compares with "French kissing your dead grandmother.")

Note to other sushi connoisseurs: DON'T EAT RAW SEA URCHIN. Maybe it was just the one I got, but it had the taste of salted, rotting seaweed and consistency of silly putty.

The day wasn't a total loss: I found a book on the Arabian Renaissance, which will make great reading for my novel.

Bourdain eats "corpse fruit" below.

Editing Letter

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 7, 2009 -- 12:11 p.m.


Description: "Lara Zielin's agony and ecstasy as she edits her debut novel, DONUT DAYS. "Editing Letter" is sung, karaoke style, to Corey Hart's "Never Surrender." Lara's Website: "

Title Hook

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 7, 2009 -- 11:46 a.m.

Why wait for your first line to hook readers? For the Ramen King and I: How the Inventor of Instant Noodles Fixed My Love Life, the hook is right on the cover. There's the face that the cover's "Cup of Soup" not the packaged Ramen we all know and love from our impoverished college days, but never mind. I have warm fuzzies for that stuff.

Reviews say its a "...beautifully crafted memoir about sex and fidelity and instant noodles..." Might be worth picking up.

I wonder if they had to work out the Cup of Soup people to do the cover, or if it qualifies under fair use rules?

There's a way, apparently, that Amazon will send you free books to read in advance of the publication date. Looks like you have to have a lot of good, insightful reviews to get picked, though.

Edit: The essay that sparked the book. I like Raskin's stuff on American Life, by the by, so this should probably be pretty good, though I haven't read it...

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 6, 2009 -- 2:05 p.m.

Would be a great band name...

Brain Harvest: An Almanac of Bad-Ass Speculative Fiction

Good brain eating squids! You rule!

Dark Tower review

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 5, 2009 -- 11:16 p.m.

"True love, like any other strong and addicting drug, is boring -- once the tale of encounter and discovery is told, kisses quickly grow stale and caresses tiresome... except, of course, to those who share the kisses, who give and take the caresses while every sound and color of the world seems to deepen and brighten around them. As with any other strong drug, true first love is really only interesting to those who have become its prisoners."

--Dark Tower IV: The Wizard and the Glass, by Stephen King.

I finished Stephen King's Dark Tower series. In some ways, I was a little disappointed by the ending, but at the end of it, I'm really not. The journey was well worth it. I read for the world, and Stephen King is a master of good details and realistic people/creation. I may read some of his other books, though the other ones of his I've read haven't grabbed me. Maybe because they weren't so epic.

The Dark Tower is a series about Roland of Gilaead, a kingdom medieval in sensibility save for the gunslingers, who crafter their pistols from Excaliber, the high king Arthur of Eld's sword. They are the White, the good, but sometimes being doing good means being dirty, and Roland is more gray than White at times.

He is accompanied by various people/creatures, including several people from our world, including a boy, a recovering heroine addict, and a black double-amputee with multiple personality disorder who has a hell of an attitude. On their way to the Dark Tower, the holy grail that keeps the world together, so to speak, they must fight their way past mutants, evil wizards, half-spider shapeshifters and homicidal choo-choo trains.

My two cents is that this is definitely a B.A.F.S. worth adding to your bookshelf. The characters are different and utterly real. The details ooze with magnificance. This are the kind of books that, as writer, make you want to write, because you read a paragraph and his words dance. They're so visceral, they roll off the page. The paragraphs of description make me excited. Mind you, that doesn't begin to happen until book two or three--the first book is more a collection of short stories and lacks the broad brush strokes of the latter part of the series.

But if you don't like lots of description, slow-moving plots, and god-like shooters who never miss, this isn't the series for you. I didn't find the pace annoying because I wanted to take things slow, to delve into the language of the world and take my fill, but my brother doesn't feel the same way, so if you're not into that sort of thing, maybe you should skip it.

The only quibble I had was King's attempts to wrap all his books together into the Dark Tower series and include himself as a character, as well. But he did it with a sense of humor, so I didn't mind too much.

And the ending is a surprise. If I had written the Dark Tower, Roland would have turned out to be God, and would have stepped into that room at the top of the Tower to assume the controls of the universe. Does it violate any spoilers to tell readers what the ending isn't?

You'll notice the books I review here will probably be a little old. This is partly because I'm unemployed, thus don't have the money to spend on my true addiction (hardbacks) so I find most of what I read at the well-picked over library, where more recent selections, like Hunger Games, have over 100 holds on them. So I have to wait awhile to partake.

Plus, I've sworn off reading B.A.F.S. (my favorite flavor of book) until the author ends them. I've suffered through too much Robert Jordan, G.R.R.M., and Janny Wurts-caused angst to embrace unended fantasy series easily. Plus the oldies are sometimes the goodies, eh?

And, if I keep buying books, someday I'll have to sleep in the gutter because my house will be overflowing with hardbacks covered with silver dragons and longswords with rubies in the hilt. Ah, longswords.

Pat Holt had a great entry about beginning writer's mistakes here. Definitely worth reading and re-reading, IMHO.

Fantasy magazine has a nice short story up (close to a micro-story) called "Voice of a cello." It ends kind of abruptly as most short stories do, but I like the way Catherine Cheek has worked in the details and the dialogue together in such a short space, interweaving humanity and magic. I love the second line: She’d always been fond of loud noises, as long as they were real.

For me, that's a hook.

Catherine also has a web comic about chickens called Coop de Grace. Golly, I love puns.

The future

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 4, 2009 -- 9:54 a.m.

Okay, so I lied about that last post thing. Sue me. Who wants to do useful things? I did research agents into epic fantasy and add a few new agent blogs to my blogroll. Not as useful as writing, maybe, but it does jiggle the soul a little.

Speaking of agents, Nathan Bransford has an interesting blog post about future publishing trends. Of note is the new instant POD book vending machine that's debuting in England. Books while you wait!

Then he links to a New York Times article that looks at a whole new facet of the Kindle: literary snobbery.
In other words, who is going to try and impress everyone on the subway by reading ULYSSES when no one can see what they're reading? It's the end of literature as we know it, people.
Woohoo! I can stop being embarrassed about carrying around my trashy vampire romances with no plot. Everybody's got to have an addiction.

Full snobbery article is here.

Flickr her

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 4, 2009 -- 6:29 a.m.

Here's someone who might be worth flickring. She does some really cool-looking artist fantasy work.

Her handle is Ariel Brearly and she posts pretty regularly.

(Warning! Not all of her art is work safe.)

Hunt for Gollum

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 4, 2009 -- 6:39 a.m.

Last post for the day. Time to go do something semi-useful.

A fan tribute to the Lord of the Rings movies was released on Sunday. It's 40 minutes long and entitled the "Hunt for Gollum." You can read about it here.

The question is, how legal is it to use another author's/moviemaker's characters/world in a not-for-profit way? It's probably not something worth suing over, but it's definitely in the gray area, unless it's a parody.

I have mixed feelings about fan fiction. So often, it's just plain poorly written, that it's hard to feel overly threatened by it. (And sometimes, fun results: see "badfic," definitely not all work safe). As an author, I think I'll be more amused than anything if my characters end up in strange, non-healthy relationships on the back of someone's web site. I mean, heck, at least someone's reading and caring about those characters, right? And I seem to remember writing a Raistlin fanfic in my angst-changed pre-teen days, so it's not like I have much right to preach (although I never showed it to anybody, thank god. The mortification would have been deadly).

But on the other hand, I wouldn't want some fan fictionist who happens to guess the way my plot is going to sue me for plagiarizing his/her idea. Well, I doubt that would happen, since they were plagiarizing my idea in the first place, but you never know.

I would probably implement a don't ask, don't tell policy and avoid it until all my books were done. Then, I might invite the really good fan fiction writers over to my house for tea.

Here's the preview for Hunt for Gollum. It looks extremely well made in terms of cinematography, though I'm kind of sick of pretty women with pointy ears. I'll pull up some popcorn and watch it this week.

Other amusing fanfic here. Good night moon mixed with the Bourne Supremacy. Hilarious!

Stormtroopers on vacation

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

I want pool floaties like that...

The List

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 4, 2009 -- 6:11 a.m.

What would you take if you had 30 minutes to pack for an adventure out in fantasyland? Megan Messinger over at ends up with an interesting list.
  • Clothes, worn in layers rather than put in the bags. Women: long skirts, hippie shirts, pea coat, boots, and something to cover our hair. Men: slacks, boots, sweaters, pea coat, a hat. Extra socks.
  • Everyone's pocket knives and Leathermans.
  • Matches and lighters. This might be the only time I’m glad that two of my roommates smoke.
  • My lame-ass keychain compass. Better than nothing, right?
  • One cast-iron pot, a couple of forks and spoons, the big kitchen knives, a mug or two.
  • Make one of the roommates run to the store for bags of lentils and chickpeas, cans of tuna, and Neosporin and bottles of multi-vitamins. One thing we assumed was that if this was to be Fantasyland* and not medieval France, there would probably be a higher standard of medical care, administered by nice men and women wearing green, so less need to hoard medication. Some things are still good to have, though; for example, I would not want to live in a world without Aleve. I might recognize a willow tree if I saw one, but aspirin has never quite done it for me.
  • On that note, tampons. I know we’d run out, but just for the adjustment phase, you know? One thing I don’t want is to be shlepping along through the underbrush in layers of clothes, slung with bags full of cast-iron pots et cetera, and have a freaking “moontime-clout” wedgie. No way.
  • All the toothbrushes and toothpaste in the apartment, so that we blend in with the Fantasyland natives, most of whom have strangely good teeth, except for beggars and old fortune-tellers.
  • Hairbrush
  • Nit comb. (Yeah, we have one. It would be just our luck to get a Fantasyland rampant with lice.)
  • Soap, which is lighter and less messy than shampoo and can also be used for hair.
  • Ziploc bags. I don’t care if they’re shockingly non-period, I want a re-sealable way to keep things dry and airtight while we’re on the road.
Best line of the blog: "I will also be wearing my fuzziest pair of pajama pants under all those skirts."

Second best: "For example, if we were going to Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar, we’d be totally fine and probably even get to meet the Queen; if it were George R.R. Martin’s Westeros, we’d be screwed no matter what, so we might as well make merry around a campfire until we’re slaughtered by roving bandits."


Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 4, 2009 -- 6:01 a.m.

I always post so much on Mondays. I don't know why...maybe it's just easier not to write after a weekend of semi-rest.

The battle scene just keeps getting longer and longer. I probably shouldn't have gone and dumped more races into it, but I had to invent them somewhere. I'm thinking about marking the three sections of the book with interludes from Aud-mot legends.

Here's a cool, touching post from the guy who does Terry Brooks' website about having a book dedicated to him. It made me feel warm and fuzzy.

Glad to see a new Landover book, by-the-by! Sword of Shannara was all right, but I've been in love with Ben Holiday's world since I picked it up in the used bookstore. What can I say, I just love inept wizards, talking dragons and lawyers!

Reading list for Fantasy Authors

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 4, 2009 -- 5:42 a.m.

Old, but new to me.

John Crowley, author of Little, Big fame wrote a list of several non-fiction books he recommends fantasy author read because they involve "Cultures We Really Evolved that are Stranger Than Any You can Think of." I've never read any of them, but I might have to hunt them down at the local library.
The Night Battles, Carlo Ginzburg. An alternative story of how witch and werewolf beliefs operated in medieval Italy.

The Art of Memory, Frances Yates. How a mnemonic mentioned in Latin and Greek rhetoric flowered into an impossibly vast magico-philosophic system in the Renaissance.

Mad Travellers, Ian Hacking. Psychology at work at the end of the 19th century to explain the problem (real at the time, it seems) of people who walk for thousands of miles without any memory of having done so. The treatments as strange as the stories.

Sons of Sinbad, Allan Villiers. The lives and work of Arab seamen on the Indian Ocean – written in the 1930s when the last of them were sailing in the same dhows as they had for centuries.

Negara, Clifford Geertz. Classic account of the “theatre state” in 19th century Bali: government as organized spectacle.

The Songlines, Bruce Chatwin. A sort-of-fictionalized story of Chatwin’s exploration of the meaning and uses of Australian Aboriginal song.

Women, Fire and Dangerous Things, George Lakoff. The way different cultures view the world as exemplified in their language. Don’t invent a language without it.

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, Charles McKay. A debunking of popular stories, legends, miracles, and delusions, written in 1841. The debunking (full of errors itself) is as amazing as the stories. Famous for its dissection of the tulip mania.

The Serpent and the Rainbow, Wade Davis. Real Haitian voodoo and the zombie cult.

1491, Charles Mann. The civilizations that thrived in the Americas before the Europeans.

Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty, Bradley K. Martin. Nearly unbelievable dystopia.

Revolutionary Dreams: Utopian Vision and Experimental Life in the Russian Revolution, Richard Stites. All the failed, ignored, suppressed possibilities that preceded the Communist state. Utopia meets Dead Souls.

Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error, Emmanuel LeRoy Ladurie. A medieval town in France – beliefs and politics in the period of the Cathar heresy.

Celtic Heritage, Alwyn Rees and Brinley Rees. The world of ancient Ireland and Wales – the shape of the world they experienced.

The World of the Shining Prince, Ivan Morris. Heian-period Japan. Read it with a brief book of the period, As I Crossed the Bridge of Dreams, in the Morris translation.

The Floating World, James A. Michener. Lighter treatment, this time Edo Japan.

The Death of the Woman Wang or The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci, both by Jonathan Spence. Among our greatest Western interpreters of Chinese culture.

East is a Big Bird: Navigation and Logic on Puluwat Atoll, Thomas Gladwin. Polynesian sailors and their methods for crossing open seas without instruments or charts, navigation skills which are their culture.

Castle and Cathedral, David Macauley. You probably read them as kids: books by a great draughtsman about the actual month-to-month and year-to-year building of these buildings. Let’s get our details right.

Faces of Degeneration A European Disorder, 1848-1918, Daniel Pick. The pseudo-science of “negative eugenics” (facing the supposed fact of human devolution) – creepy, horrific in its consequences.

Uncomfortable plot summaries

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 4, 2009 -- 5:25 a.m.

  • 25TH HOUR: White New Yorkers commit crimes against both law and ethics; feel bad for being caught, rather than for doing it at all.
  • 300: Gays kill blacks.
  • 8 MILE: White man successfully coopts black culture to impress other whites.
  • A CIVIL ACTION: Underqualified lawyer doesn’t listen to clients, royally botches case.
  • A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES: Social deviants make life difficult for genius.
  • A CRY IN THE DARK: Dogs eat baby, confusion follows.
  • ALIEN: Ship fails to deliver cargo, crew don’t get bonus.
  • ALIENS: An unplanned pregnancy leads to complications.
  • AMADEUS: Man with health problems receives help from rival.
  • AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON: Tourist causes riot.
  • ATLAS SHRUGGED: Selfish industrialist destroys economy.
  • AUNTIE MAME: Spinster exposes child to sexual fetishists, socialists; thwarts marriage to good Republican girl.
  • BATMAN: Wealthy man assaults the mentally ill.
  • BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: Peasant girl develops Stockholm Syndrome.
  • BENJI: Family abandons beloved pet, forcing it to engage in a dangerous cross-country journey.
  • BEOWULF: Colonists hire assassin to drive natives from land.
  • BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA: Redneck trucker kills Chinese immigrants.
  • BILLY ELLIOT: Union worker turns back on strikers for personal gain.
  • BLADE: Obsessed loner stalks minority group.
  • BLADE RUNNER: Man with no apparent skill stumbles into escaped robots, fails to kill most, fucks one.
  • BLAKE’S 7: Terrorists fight government, die.
  • BOOGIE NIGHTS: Deformed boy goaded into life of crime.
  • BOTTLE ROCKET: Mentally unstable man fosters friend’s descent into mental instability, finds love.
  • BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S: Pretty redneck girl fools socialites, flirts with gay gigolo.
  • BREWSTER’S MILLIONS: Black man abuses line of credit.
  • BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: Teenage serial killer destroys town in fit of semi-religious fervor.
  • CHANGE OF HABIT: Rock star regrets not looking closer at contract with movie studio.
  • CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY: Deranged pedophile big-business industrialist tortures and mutilates young children.
  • CHASING AMY: Homosexuality proved to be passing fancy and sign of sexual deviance.
  • CHEERS: Alcoholic cuts lime in bar as penance for his womanizing ways.
  • CHINATOWN: Father desires closer relationship with his children.
  • CHRISTMAS VACATION: Incestuous relatives teach family the meaning of Christmas.
  • CLERKS: Aimless loser remains in dead-end job, abusive “friendship.”
  • CLOAK AND DAGGER: Spoiled teens discover drugs make them special.
  • CONAN THE BARBARIAN: Petty thief murders religious leader.
  • CORALINE: Misfit discovers she is special person in a secret world just beside our own.
  • CRANK: Drug addict spends last day in orgy of rape and violence.
  • CUJO: Family neglects to give family pet rabies shots, pays price.
  • DAREDEVIL: Blind man pisses off crime boss, gets all his girl-friends killed.
  • DARK KNIGHT RETURNS: Aging sadist corrupts, endangers minor, facilitates murder, destroys superhero comic books for 30 years.
  • DEADWOOD: Pimp and rapist charms frontier town into eventual fire-based disaster.
  • DEBBIE DOES DALLAS: Cheerleaders develop valuable entrepreneurial skills.
  • DEEP THROAT: Medical anomaly earns woman new friends.
  • DELIVERANCE: Tourists experience local hospitality.
  • DEMOLITION MAN: In a future where crime is completely eradicated, a black man steals and murders.
  • DIE HARD: Dysfunctional cop saves marriage by murdering foreign national.
  • DIRTY HARRY: Police incompetence allows murderer to go free.
  • DOCTOR FAUSTUS: Scholar leans nuances of contract law.
  • DOCTOR WHO: Elderly man serially abducts young women.
  • DONNIE DARKO: Hallucinating teen crushed by airplane engine.
  • DRACULA: Immigrant clashes with locals.
  • E.T.: Out-of-control pet causes mayhem, sadness.
  • EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE: Part-time mechanic involves girlfriend in illegal fight club, risks life of best friend and endangered primate.
  • FALLING DOWN: Life is difficult for white men.
  • FANTASTIC FOUR: Scientist exposes friends, family to dangerous radiation to assuage ego, becomes embroiled in rivalry with former room-mate.
  • FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF: Amoral narcissist makes world dance for his amusement.
  • FIELD OF DREAMS: Schizophrenic builds ball park, almost kills girl.
  • FIGHT CLUB: Deranged sociopath guides yuppies to their deaths.
  • FIREFLY: In an analogue of the post-Civil War west, a white man on the losing side bosses around a black woman.
  • FRANKENSTEIN: Scientific advancement proves unpopular with general public.
  • FREAKS: Acrobat learns value of community.
  • SERENITY: Men fight for possession of scantily clad mentally ill teenage girl.
  • GHOSTBUSTERS: Unemployed college professors destroy hotel with nuclear weapons.
  • GLADIATOR: Convict murders head of state.
  • GLENGARRY, GLENN ROSS: Sales job proves difficult for some.
  • GONE WITH THE WIND: Rich, white slave owner enjoys getting raped, miscarries.
  • GOOD WILL HUNTING: Underemployed genius squanders prestigious job opportunity to chase trim.
  • GREEN ARROW: Rich white man with Robin Hood fetish goes vigilante.
  • GREEN LANTERN: Policeman beats up his girlfriend.
  • GREMLINS: Distant father ruins son’s life, puts entire town at risk.
  • GROUNDHOG DAY: Misanthropic creep exploits space/time anomaly to stalk coworker.
  • HACKERS: Cybercriminals on revenge kick destroy innumerable jobs.
  • HAIR: Hippie dodges draft, dies ironically.
  • HALLOWEEN: Babysitter’s relationship with murderer places children in danger.
  • HARRY POTTER: Celebrity Jock thinks rules don’t apply to him, is right.
  • HE GOT GAME: Escaped convict attempts to embezzle only son.
  • HIGHLANDER: Elderly immigrant destroys property.
  • IRON MAN: Alcoholic rich white man with technology fetish goes vigilante.
  • WAR MACHINE: Alcoholic rich white man gives weapons to black man.
  • IT: Children use horrific murders as excuse to run train on young girl.
  • JFK: Family man wastes life for nothing in crusade against homosexuals.
  • JUDGE DREDD: Fascist thug in bleak dystopia is cheered.
  • JUNO: Teen fails to get abortion, ruins lives.
  • JURASSIC PARK: Theme park’s grand opening pushed back.
  • KARATE KID: Boy gains acceptance through violence.
  • KILL BILL: Irresponsible mother wants custody of her child.
  • KINDERGARTEN COP: Incompetent left in charge of children, who are eventually fired at by convicted felon.
  • KING KONG: Endangered animal stolen, shot.
  • KING OF KONG: Dick battles loser over trivia.
  • LA CONFIDENTIAL: Rapist joins thug in foiling police corruption scheme.
  • LABYRINTH: Girl is negligent baby-sitter.
  • LARS AND THE REAL GIRL: Retarded man doesn’t know what sex toy is for.
  • LASSIE COME HOME: Family abandons beloved pet, forcing it to engage in a dangerous cross-country journey.
  • LOLITA: Man encourages step-daughter to take chances.
  • LONE WOLF MCQUADE: Alcoholic assaults local businessman, ruins marriage.
  • LORD OF THE RINGS: Midget destroys stolen property.
  • LOVE ACTUALLY: Prime Minister risks war with United States over a sexy secretary.
  • MARLEY AND ME: Out-of-control pet causes mayhem, sadness.
  • METROPOLIS: Efficient society undone by unions.
  • MICHAEL CLAYTON: Attorney works against client’s interests.
  • MILK: Uppity queer dies.
  • MIRRORMASK: Misfit discovers she is special person in secret world just beside our own.
  • MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL: British comedy troupe inadvertently creates language lab for nerds.
  • MULHOLLAND DRIVE: Lesbian relationship is harmful.
  • MY GIRL: Boy killed by female friend’s irresponsibility.
  • NEVERWHERE: Misfit discovers he is special person in secret world just beside our own.
  • O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU: Southern musicians encounter massive flooding and government incompetence.
  • OBSERVE AND REPORT: Emotionally disturbed man gets woman drunk, rapes her.
  • OCEAN’S ELEVEN: Gang of career criminals commit act of terror to facilitate robbery and romance.
  • OF MICE AND MEN: Migrant farmer murders mentally handicapped friend.
  • ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST: Disruptive mental patients treated.
  • PILLOW TALK: Gay man tricks woman into sex.
  • POLTERGEIST: Pot-head parents lose child, ruin property values.
  • PREDATOR: American military-industrial complex ruins first contact with alien life.
  • PRETTY BABY: Young woman’s modeling career encouraged.
  • PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: Woman with gold-digging mother nags wealthy man into marriage.
  • PYGMALION: Urchin cured by social betters.
  • RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK: American yahoo murders soldiers and desecrates religious artifacts for money.
  • RAISING ARIZONA: Convicted felon seduces police officer in kidnapping plot.
  • RAMBO III: The United States provides arms, equipment and training to the terrorists behind 9/11.
  • RATATOUILLE: Vermin infest restaurant until it is forced to close doors.
  • RAVENOUS: Coward is seduced by cannibal, destroys army outpost.
  • RED DAWN: Despite shock-and-awe tactics, a superior occupying force is no match for a tenacious sect of terrorist insurgents.
  • RISKY BUSINESS: Privileged rich kid gets everything he wants with no consequences.
  • ROAD HOUSE: Bouncer becomes vigilante, murders local businessman with karate.
  • ROBIN HOOD: Disgruntled veteran protests taxes.
  • ROBOCOP: Female officer’s incompetence leads partner to be murdered and enslaved by corporation.
  • ROCKY: White man beats black man.
  • ROSEMARY’S BABY: An unplanned pregnancy leads to complications.
  • RUDY: Diminutive athlete patronized.
  • RUSHMORE: Teen molests teacher, is expelled. Finds love.
  • SCARFACE: Immigrant finds running his own business stressful, dangerous.
  • SCHINDLER’S LIST: Wealthy industrialist expands not-for-profit ventures.
  • SCOTT PILGRIM: Emotionally immature musician sleeps with high-school girl.
  • SE7EN: Homicide detectives unable to prevent even a single murder by admitted serial killer, killer gives cop head.
  • SHORT CIRCUIT: Rogue scientist steals top-secret government weapon.
  • SIGNS: Jesus trumps science.
  • SILENCE OF THE LAMBS: Incompetent manipulated by several murderers, stumbles upon suspect completely by accident. Creates situation that allows serial killer to escape.
  • SLEEPY HOLLOW: Veteran harassed.
  • SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT: Redneck bootlegger makes mockery of law, sanctity of marriage.
  • SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS: Layabout stepdaughter shacks up with seven miners.
  • SOPHIE’S CHOICE: Mom loves one of her kids way more than the other one.
  • SOUTHLAND TALES: Traumitized vet destroys universe.
  • SPIDER-MAN: Nerd gets bitten by spider, complains about how this ruins his life for years to come.
  • STARDUST: Misfit discovers he is special person in secret world just beside our own.
  • STAR TREK: Over-sexed officer routinely places crew in danger.
  • STAR TREK THE MOTION PICTURE: Meglomaniac can’t let go of past glory, drives successor to suicide.
  • STAR TREK III: Military officers steal vessel and destroy it to eliminate a handful of enemies while engaged on an extremely vague rescue mission.
  • STAR TREK IV: Interplanetary fugitives poach wildlife from a past age to cover up an act of genocide.
  • STAR TREK VI: Racist military commander past his prime nearly ruins galactic peace.
  • STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE: Religious extremist terrorists destroy government installation, killing thousands.
  • STAR WARS: EMPIRE STRIKES BACK: Boy is abused by midget, kisses sister, attempts patricide.
  • STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI: Handicapped mass murderer kills septugenarian, is lauded.
  • STRAW DOGS: Immigrant clashes with locals.
  • SUPERBAD: Boys plan date-rape, sleep together.
  • SUPERMAN RETURNS: Illegal immigrant is deadbeat dad.
  • SWEENEY TODD: Businesses flourish when freed from stringent regulation.
  • TAXI DRIVER: Modern dating proves challenging for working class man.
  • TERMINATOR: An unplanned pregnancy leads to complications.
  • TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: Tourists have difficulty with regional cuisine.
  • THE CAT FROM OUTER SPACE: College professors help illegal alien evade authorities.
  • THE CONVERSATION: Paranoid schizophrenic follows worst possible career path.
  • THE CRYING GAME: Hairdresser bonds with client.
  • THE EDGE: Men bond in Alaskan wilderness.
  • THE EXORCIST: Jesus trumps science.
  • THE FIRM: White lawyer learns hard work is irrelevant.
  • THE GOLDEN COMPASS: Critique of Catholicism upstaged by polar bear fight.
  • THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY: Nameless drifter kills American soldier over stolen money, hangs friend.
  • THE GOONIES: Physically abused, retarded man finds love with overweight preteen.
  • THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY: Family abandons beloved pets, forcing them to engage in a dangerous cross-country journey.
  • THE MATRIX: Hacker is given perfect justification for mass slaughter.
  • THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS: Dangerous insurgent invades neighboring country.
  • THE OFFICE: Incompetent boss routinely endangers employees, passes fire-worthy blame, sexually harasses subordinates; is seen as “hero” compared to people who just actually work.
  • THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST: Mel Gibson fulfills fantasy of showing a Jew beaten to a bloody pulp and killed on-screen.
  • THE PROFESSIONAL: Hired murderer sleeps with little girl.
  • THE STEPFORD WIVES: Woman has difficulty adjusting to suburban life.
  • THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1 2 3: Civil servant insults and shoots foreigners.
  • THE THING: Unexpected visitor imposes on workers, their dogs.
  • THE UNTOUCHABLES: Murderer indicted on technicality.
  • THE WICKER MAN: Isolated religious community revitalized by newcomer.
  • THE X-MEN: Minority group seeks overthrow of social order.
  • THERE WILL BE BLOOD: Kidnapper commits murder several times.
  • TITANIC: Crazy old widow disregards lifelong memories of husband, children, and grandchildren in favor of that one time she fucked a bum.
  • TOP GUN: Pilot routinely endangers Air Traffic Controllers.
  • TORCHWOOD: Bisexual is inefficient manager.
  • TRAINSPOTTING: Statutory rapist and junkie sifts through human waste, gets enormous sum of money.
  • TRANSPORTER: Repressed homosexual kills employers.
  • TWILIGHT: Girl gives up college for stalker.
  • BREAKING DAWN: Native American guy is romantically obsessed with ex-girlfriend’s baby.
  • TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME: Father becomes more involved in teenage daughter’s life.
  • V FOR VENDETTA: Dystopian government overthrown by faceless conformity.
  • VERTIGO: Stalker drives woman to suicide.
  • W.: Unspeakable disaster afflicts America. Then terrorists attack.
  • WALL-E: Obsolete robot disrupts big business, disrupts lives of millions of innocent civilians.
  • WAR OF THE WORLDS: Immigrants face difficulty acclimating.
  • WATCHMEN: Homosexual destroys New York, blames God.
  • WEEKEND AT BERNIES: Two employees take advantage of their boss’ hospitality.
  • WONDER WOMAN: Princess from isolationist culture lectures Americans on equality.
  • WORLD TRADE CENTER: Rag-tag group of underdogs succeed at a massive undertaking despite overwhelming odds, credit success with faith in God.
(Lifted from

Writing Prompt #3 -- Sick and twisted

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 4, 2009 -- 4:52 a.m.

It's that time again...

Title: Sick and Twisted
Genre: Any
Type: Description

99% of the description in books is cliche. Dressed up cliches, maybe, but still cliche. Yet some description still moves us to horror, to shudder, to moan with pain.

What are the things that absolutely revolt you? What characteristics of a person, animal or situation make you want to toss your cookies all over the floor?

For me, there are certain color combinations, smells and sights that just sicken me. Jiggling jowl fat. Yellow and purple together. Drool glistening in the light.

What kind of things naturally revolt you? Write down the five most revolting things you can think of. For each of them, then write down five more things connected to those original objects having to do with why they seem so horrible.

For example, I once had a nightmare about bees crawling under my skin. The most horrifying thing was sitting there watching the bump under my flesh rise and fall and ripple, and the feelings of utter, utter powerlessness that came from watching it.

So I might write down the words "burrowing skin bees." Then, I might write: 1) helplessness, 2) queasy motion beneath skin, 3) sharp stingers, 4) yellow, 5) my veins popping.

The trick is, none of the 30 items on the list can be the same. I can't write "blood" next to my burrowing skin bees (who WILL show up in a novel someday) and also next to my carnivorous footworms (one reason I'm not likely to move to certain parts of Africa...).

Now, can you evoke the same shivers in your own writings? Can you use some of the same description points as references in your text? Can your villain's laughter not just hurt your hero's ears but "burrow into his flesh until he could feel it squeezing his veins, like a fist whose nails were sharp enough to make them pop"?

If you can't scare/horrify/sicken yourself, there's no way you can terrify your reader. One of my friends was in the middle of reading Test of the Twins, by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. When one of the villains put his hand on his apprentice's chest, searing five ever-bleeding holes into the skin beneath, someone came up to my friend and touched her. She jumped five feet into the air.

That should be your goal.


Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 2, 2009 -- 7:27 p.m.

Ever been in a conversation you can't get out of? Sometimes that happens in my writing. Two characters shoot the breeze and they just never stop.

Most often, I find that happens for me when I'm not sure what the purpose of the scene is. I know it has one, so I keep fishing around for it by having the characters talk about the fantasy/sci-fi equivalent of the Mets.

I know the purpose of this conversation/scene: to introduce a character and to introduce a prophecy. That done, now I need to get some sort of "exit strategy." The problem is, in real life, conversations don't just stop in the middle. They end awkwardly (not goo reading) or just don't end (equally bad) or the two parties leave in a huff.

Here are a couple of ways to stop eternal conversations that just aren't working for me this time.

1) Bring in another character
2) Trigger an action (ie, everyone runs to the window to see what exploded.)
3) Reach a decision/turning point of some sort.

So how do you say "So, I've got to go off and polish my saddle..." without sounding lame?

My cousin came to visit. He's four, but a genius. He picks things up from watching just once and knows all about negotiation. He's probably ready to learn to read, if he has someone to see him. And he's as cute as a button! Too bad he was cranky today. Wasn't as much fun as usual.