Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

December 9, 2010 -- 9:07 a.m.

Publisher's Lunch Weekly had deals from local author Brandon Sanderson, giving us some detail about the books coming from him in the next couple of years.

"No. 1 NYT bestselling fantasy author Brandon Sanderson's MISTBORN: The Alloy of Law, an original, standalone short novel set in the universe of his Mistborn trilogy, and THE RITHMATIST, set in an alternate-history America where magic users (called "Rithmatists") battle wild chalk creatures, introducing a student at the Rithmatist academy with great interest in but no ability to use the magic, but when students start vanishing, it's up to him to expose the sinister figure behind the disappearances, to Tor, for publication in 2011 and 2012, respectively."

It'll be fun to see another Mistborn book. I'm reserving judgment on Rithmatists, but it sounds interesting. Hopefully, it has something to do with arithmetic or rhythm, otherwise its kind of a silly name.

In other news, my friend Frank, from our writing group, was an honorable mention in this quarter's Writers of the Future contest. So congratulations!

Borders and B&N, Unite!

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

December 6, 2010 -- 12:41 p.m.

Book News: Borders' owner just made a proposal to buy Barnes and Noble. Will their powers combine to form an arch nemesis to Amazon?

Posters on the Wall Street Journal web site scoff and say the move is just to pump stock prices. I would be surprised at the move, personally. Borders is shutting down stores at the moment, so why would they try to absorb a huge chain?

Personally, I've been doing my Christmas shopping at Hastings, which is one of my favorite chain used book stores. Powell's is nice also, but Hastings has the advantages of used video games and used DVDs too. There's a big conversation in the gaming community about how buying used video games is immoral because developers don't get their money. That applies to books, too. I feel a wee bit guilty about denying my favorite authors their percentages (less about the game developers) but I am a poor student. They got their fee once, too, from the original owner. You wouldn't complain it was immoral if someone read a book and then gave it to someone else, would you? And which would an author rather have, their book in the trash, or their book in the hands of a fervent admirer who shows it to her friends and tries to convince them to buy it, too?

I presume that most authors are in favor of the used book industry, regardless of the fact they don't profit, but it would be interesting to find out. Used book stores have such a happy fuzzy reputation, I suspect most authors would be stoned on the spot if they dared to speak out against them.

The only problem with used books is that when I see trade paperbacks for $2.50, I end up bringing home 30 of them, and I never read them because I have too many. I must have twenty books on my shelf calling to me, and I keep buying more for "market research."

My baby brother turned 20 yesterday. I still remember wrapping his 1-year-old body in a blanket and stuffing him under an overturned laundry basket weighed down with my mum's aerobic weights, because he was so annoying. When I came back, he'd stopped moving, and I was terrified he'd suffocated, but no, he'd just fallen asleep, happy as a clam that his big sister had played with him. Unfortunately, he is big enough I can no longer do that. Though I have tried.

I love my family so much. Speaking of which, a delayed thanksgiving post: when I asked my grandfather what he wanted for his birthday/Christmas, he told me, "for you to find an agent and a publisher, and to get into grad school with good scores on your GREs."

If everyone had grandparents like mine, I don't think the world would have any crime or any war. We'd all live happy lives climbing lollypop trees and singing happy songs. I am so grateful for my family, who believe in me even though I categorically refuse to let them read my novels. I am tentatively planning on showing some them the first part of Skin Farm. We'll see if they think I've been wasting my time.

Bad Writing

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

December 3, 2010

Still sick. No fun. I hate the isolation this causes. I see it as my moral obligation not to spread germs, but I haven't left the house in a week and I miss non-family social interaction. Even for me, grand solipsist that I am (see, still studying for the GREs), I like the occasionally company of someone my own age from time to time.

Dad had gall bladder surgery last weekend but now he's okay. It was edging on gangrenous when they took it out, so I'm glad they caught it before things got more serious. I hate the suddenness of these things. Why can't life hand you your schedule of medical emergencies in advance so you can properly prepare?

Today, I've been musing about the phrase "bad writing." I've had people talk to me about the bad writing in books. I've seen it on amazon reviews all the time. The funny thing is, it's a phrase the doesn't actually mean much, yet everyone seems to expect everyone else to understand what they mean.

I've been thinking about this because I was talking about books with a friend who hated Hunger Games because of its "bad writing." The vagueness of the phrase can refer to style, or to characterization, or to a dozen other nitpicky things. Usually an author is good on some points and not so good on others, yet if the particular aspect you care about as a reader is lacking, all of their good points get wrapped up in the term "bad writing". And often, even more ironically, sometimes it's a term that's used not about the writing at all, but about something else, like the choice of subject matter. If it's something you disagree with, then it's bad writing, too.

And then things get even more complicated, because sometimes the author does bad writing on purpose. Does that turn bad writing into good writing? Does that mean we judge should weigh intention while trying to judge if something is bad or not?

I thought about it somewhat while reading the criticism of Dan Wells' Serial Killer book on Amazon. It amused to me to see some people complaining that the protagonist's sociopathic tendencies are "bad writing" when it was a deliberate choice on the part of the author. I don't know whether it realistically represented a sociopath's perspective or not, not being a sociopath, but I wonder why people tend to dismiss things they don't like as "bad writing" instead of saying, "I didn't like the author's choice to do x". Not liking something is fine. But I wonder where we got the tendency to group everything we don't like under bad writing, because it's a universal trait. Maybe I felt a little touchy because some people on Amazon seemed to be equating bad writing with anything that has elements of fantasy.

So the moral of the story is, bad writing isn't always bad writing. Except when I use the term, because everything I don't like IS bad writing, even if all these other people using the phrase are crazy-kins. (/End irony.)