Monday, July 14, 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour

And sometimes somebody asks you to do something that makes you think about the way you do your thing.

I have to thank Yelena Casale for inviting me to participate in the Writing Process Blog Tour. You can find her at Yelena Casale's Writing Blog and on Twitter at @Yelena_Casale.

The point of all this is to reveal a little bit about the process each of us has when we sit down to write.  Each is unique in its own way. This is mine.  On to the questions!

1) What am I working on? 

The thing that's taking up the bulk of my writing time is an untitled science fiction piece of "undetermined" length.  The current target is 50,000 words, but it might shrink or grow as things progress.  At the moment it's working out to be a science fiction take on James Bond with a female protagonist.  Like most of the stuff I've written it's mutated from what it started out being.

The other thing I'm spending head-time on is a project that I started, got through a first draft and then had to put down due to to other concerns.  It's a sort of urban fantasy novel concerning good, evil and fate.  Considering how long it took to write the first draft, the second and succeeding drafts could take a while.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? 

While I tend to write what can nominally be called "science fiction" and fantasy, my science fiction stuff tends toward space opera rather than hard sf.  While there are explanations of the science in the stories, those explanations aren't very deep and some things simply aren't explained at all because I don't feel the need to do so.  Also, my work tends to have more than a tinge of romance to it.  My fantasy work tends to be more character driven than plot driven.  My characters don't tend to go on epic quests.  Things happen and they learn things about themselves that they didn't previously know.

3) Why do I write what I do?

 I've been a fan of science fiction and fantasy since I was very young.  It's the thing I'm most familiar with.  As such, when I began writing stuff in my teens I started writing science fiction-y stuff.  Over the years I've been slowly expanding my repertoire to include bits and pieces of other genres, but I've always gravitated toward those genres because they feel right.

4) How does my writing process work?

 Honestly, I think my process is weird.  I'm sort of a hybrid pantser/plotter.  Usually when I start a first draft I'm pantsing it until I'm either at a point where I know the piece has legs or isn't going to work.  If it does have legs then I'll tend to sit down and write an outline with the major plot points I'll need to hit.  The outline then acts as a guide to get me from point A to point B.  If the story takes detours that's fine. The map is there to bring me back on track when necessary.

I also try to write the ending first.  A piece of advice I got from a professional writer friend years ago.  I will actually sit down and write out a paragraph or more that defines the ending scene.  Having done that I have a direction to go toward.  That ending might change based on the story, but it gives me a direction to head in.

I don't do a whole lot of research.  Most of my stuff is either in a fantastical world of my own creation or uses ideas that are sort of standard in the sf genre.  I have done research in the past when I've needed to understand a concept, but it's not usual for me. 

Keeping the tour rolling, these three authors will be posting about their process on Monday, July 21st. Read them. See what makes them tick.

Lisa T. Cresswell

Lisa T. Cresswell is the author of a middle grade, fantasy trilogy and a YA Contemporary novel. Her next book, a YA dystopian novel is due from Month9Books in 2015. By day, she roams the deserts of southern Idaho, where she works as an archaeologist. By night, she writes fanciful stories for young people. Find out more at .

Allison Duke

Allison describes herself like this:

I am a person who loves. I love God, my husband, my kids, my church, books, life, horses, art, music, theatre, movies, the Bible, people, sarcasm, good food, good friends, family, butterflies, mountains, sunshine, snow, and chocolate. I occasionally blog my thoughts and write novels. I live in Colorado and I love it here.

You can find her blog at

J. B. Mills

Julia used to want to write 100 novels and lock them in an old trunk, so a century later someone could find them and publish them postmortem. Then she decided getting published in her lifetime might be ok too. At least that’s the current plan! She writes YA novels and lives with her husband and son in Denver, CO. She’s expecting her second child in September.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Person Is Not The Work

I've been thinking about this for a long while now.  Off and on the problem will rear its head and we'll be off to a new flame war about essentially nothing.

First it was the whole to-do about Orson Scott Card and his politics.  This brought about a call to boycott the Ender's Game movie because seeing it would give Card money. (I know there's more to the mess than that, but that's essentially the issue.)

Now there's this debacle with the Hugo Awards.  (Link opens in new window.)  Essentially it boils down to two authors who don't like each other campaigning against each other not because of the books they wrote but because of each other's politics.

Here's the thing.  If you're voting for an award for a book or a movie or a record or a song or whatever the politics of the creator have nothing to do with your vote. The thing being voted on should be looked at on its own merits and not on the merit of the creator.

Back when I was a comic book collector and fan I had a similar issue.  Comics artist Trina Robbins, whose stuff I like, is often an outspoken, almost militant, feminist.  Her stances on many subjects rub me the wrong way.  I'm sure she's a fantastic person (and people who knew her back in those days were quick to say she was) but I can't deal with her politics.

Y'know what?  I still like her stuff.

Certainly I can see her political leanings in her work.  Moreso in some pieces than others as some things are meant to be more political than others.  That doesn't lessen my enjoyment of the work or her ability to craft a story and draw entertaining characters.

I still like her stuff even though I've found her politics to be distasteful.

I think Harlan Ellison is an ass.  Outspoken and abrasive.

I still like his stuff.

I can separate the person from the work.  I can separate the creator's politics, religion, gender, race, whatever from the work.  If I don't like the work, I don't consume it. If I do, I do.

We should all be able to do this and it's a sad commentary on the state of fandom at large that instead of dealing with the creation on its own merits we seek to attack the creator for whatever reason often acting like little children who didn't get their way.

The person is not the work.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Dune? Dune!

I do a lot of my reading with audiobooks nowadays. They allow me to multitask and they're unabridged which means I have to listen to every word.

I admit at the outset that this is my first time listening to Dune.  I've seen the David Lynch movie multiple times but didn't have the time to sit down and read the book. Until now.

So here's the issue I bring to the book.  Every person I've ever talked to about Dune says that there's so much more in the book that wasn't in the movie.  They get angry that Lynch somehow lobotomized their baby.  And I suppose I can see their point of view. There are certainly elements of the book that were missing in the movie and a few that might have explained the background a little more.  The story goes that Lynch's initial cut was some three hours long and that the studio demanded a shorter cut, which is why he now distances himself from the movie.

Outside of some changes made specifically for the movie and the needs of that medium everything in the movie is in the book. The Atreides are given control of Arrakis, the Harkkonen attack, Paul's father dies, Paul becomes the leader of the native Fremen, the Emperor comes to Dune to set things right and Paul and the Fremen fight a battle to push the Empire from their world.

That is the essential plot of the movie and the book.

Yes, we don't see the Emperor in the book until near the end, but the movie needs him to come in at the beginning and lay down the backstory so the viewer understands the story and the reason for the action.  What the book explains in roughly three chapters, the movie does in about twenty minutes.

Is there more character development in the book? Certainly. That's what books do well.

Does the movie change the Weirding Way, the Atreides fighting style, from a nebulous martial art to something involving sound being transformed in the beams of force?  Yes. And it works for the visual medium of film. I doubt any viewer would have accepted what would have become a Kung-Fu movie if the Weirding Way had been kept as it was in the book.

Don't get me wrong. There are things in the movie that are cheesy and don't hold up. But the core of the plot is there and it works.

If you haven't read Dune I recommend it.  It's a good book. The dialogue is a little stilted and the science part of the science fiction is more along the lines of Jules Verne or H.G. Welles than Clark and Asimov, but it fits solidly in the genre.

If you see the movie, enjoy it. It's a solid film and a lot of fun. If it has any downsides it's the extensive use of in-the-character's-head dialogue sequences. This doesn't occur in the book but became a necessity when the studio decided they wanted a shorter cut of the movie.  No matter the medium, Dune is a dense story and these dialogue sequences were the only way to get information to the viewer in the amount of time available.

And that's the end of my story.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Rest In Peace Alondra

Wednesday, January 8, 2014 was one of the worst days of my life. The night before, my niece Ali and her boyfriend Zack had gone on a date to Reno, NV (they lived in Fernley, NV, just outside of Reno).  They had come home around 10:30pm.  At some point between then and Midnight, they both passed away due to carbon monoxide poisoning.  My sister found them around midnight.  My older nephew informed my father and me around 2am on Wednesday.

There was shock.  There still is.  For most of the week I thought about all the things she'll never get to do or try to be.  Simple things like never going to Senior Prom.  Never getting to drive on her own.  Never getting to go to college. Never getting married. Having her own kids. And on and on.

Ali was a sweet, gentle girl who nonetheless had a core of strength inside her. Tell her she couldn't do something and she'd show you she could.

She was always smiling and loved to laugh and sing.  She loved her friends and had many.  Always outgoing, she made friends easily. And she wanted her family to share her friends, too.

I'll miss you Ali. You were the kindest, sweetest niece an uncle could ever want.