Saturday 30 July 2016

VERY good advice

The advice is good, but I'm not sure what word would do the job in the here & now.  Even a modern Young Adult novel might not raise an eyebrow at "damn".  

Tuesday 26 July 2016

"Julian Comstock" by R.C. Wilson

"Julian Comstock-a Story of 22nd Century America" by Robert Charles Wilson
Published 2009

I've now read two R.C. Wilson books (and some short stories).  His prose and writing skill is exemplary.  I won't challenge that for a second.  However, his work is not for me.

In "Julian Comstock", he has captured the stylistic tone of Mark Twain and other such period writing.  Love that!  However, he does nothing with this skill.  This book (and the much-lauded "Spin") just meanders along for 600 pages to culminate in a whole lot of nothing.  Around the 400 page mark, I realized that I had just finished the world's longest prologue.

Perhaps to a relative novice reader of SF, especially post-apocalyptic rebuilt civilization SF, this book would be exciting.  To anyone who has read more than three of that style of novel, "Julian Comstock" comes across as a pretty bland bowl of "been there, done that".  In point of fact, it barely ranks as a post-apocalyptic piece.  Only by dropping little crumbs to remind us it is the 22nd Century keeps the book from being some historical narrative of the Boer War or other 19th century era politics.

I can only theorize that Wilson receives the praise he does from "jazz lovers".  Jazz is all about virtuoso musicians plinking, tooting and strumming with great skill but building nothing.  Some people are enraptured by this.  Others, like myself, would rather these virtuosos use this great talent to make a heart-stopping, stomach-clenching and especially mind-boggling "Beginning, Middle and End" piece.  "Julian Comstock" leaves your anatomy undisturbed.  It drifts along, amiably diverting, mildly amusing, occasionally unsettling, until it finally bumps to a quiet stop.

I think I had about five chair naps while reading it.

So, with regrets, I have to bid Robert Charles Wilson "au revoir".

PS What nearly made me toss the book unfinished were the repetitive descriptions of a 22nd American "movie" performance.  Once gave us an insight into the culture/world.  After that, it was nothing but adding pages to the 600 page bloat.

Sunday 24 July 2016

"Lit Happens" interview

The late, great, much missed Wes Funk interviews me on his show "Lit Happens".

Wednesday 20 July 2016

July 20, 1969 - SPACE ERA 47


We’re so lucky that a person of your caliber came along.  Someone with the genius and clarity of mind that makes you a real-life Sherlock Holmes.

Thirteen seconds after the images of Neil Armstrong stepping on the Moon amazed the gullible, the USSR, Communist China and all the folks who consider the Americans annoying blowholes examined the evidence.  They had the IDENTICAL collection of photos, rocks and scientific facts you have in front of you.  A literal army of motivated intelligence analysts, astrophysicists, and engineers examined every piece of that evidence.  Any suggestion of shenanigans on the part of NASA would be a huge triumph, so the lights burned late into the night.  

To no avail.

There are no shortage of people around this planet who would love to score points off the USA, but no one ever seized on the clues staring them in the face!  Only someone with your laser-like focus spotted fluttering flags and misplaced shadows.  Only you possessed the scientific genius to spot the lethal impossibility of space travel. 

So, tinfoil hat off to you!  Thank you for keeping your concentration fixed on the problem that exists for nobody but you.  Thanks for not being distracted by your mother coming into the basement to do laundry!  Your revelations give the world a headache behind the left eye, but by crikey, it’s a world of truth!

Friday 15 July 2016

Avoiding a trip up the Amazon...

Am I insane or merely a principled eccentric for not having my digital book on Amazon?

I can already hear the chorus of responses all summing up to “insane”.  

But I have a bucket of reasons!

1)  I hate giant, world-conquering monopolies.  A lot.  Whenever I can manage to patronize a “little guy” (some only smaller in comparison), I do so.

2)  Not surprisingly, therefore, that I have no interest in “Kindle” or “mobi”.  If I understand correctly, an entire library of books is still attached to an umbilical leading back to Amazon.  A cord they can cut at any time they choose.  I’m an ePub dude.

3)  I keep hearing rumblings of discontent about Amazon.  There always seems to be hushed warnings in the writer forums and groups in which I’m a member.  "The reviewers are all insane."  "Amazon has changed the compensation rules again".  "This is the current clown suit to wear in order to be on some prime list or special selection".  
       These are all peripheral impressions feeding into my bias, so I can’t cling too hard to this “evidence”.  But, I rarely see an post of “BOY, have I done well on Amazon!  They’re swell!”

4)  I do have my book featured in a half-dozen other outlets (which combined, probably don’t equal Amazon ponderous mass).  Still, I would think the Apple iTunes Store carries some respect?

5)  Of key importance is that I went to some effort to sell my book on my own website.  Effort on my end so the consumer-reader can have an easy-peasy experience with PayPal.  I don’t have to pay anyone a cut of the price.  If you buy it there, you’re supporting the author directly.

No…after typing all that out, I’m going to stay the course.  If I haven’t sold a virtual bucket of digital books, it’s the fault of my self-promotion campaign (or lack thereof).  

Thanks for listening.  I look forward to any thoughtful rebuttals.

Okay, self-promotion time!

Will explain “Home on the Strange - a Brewster & Brewster Adventure” and allow you to purchase a professional quality ePub via:

At a whole list of fine online stores!

Wednesday 6 July 2016

Second bananas

Who is that behind the hero?

Another comment thread brought the problem of secondary characters in a novel to light.  How to make these co-stars come to life and not be merely placeholders?  You don’t want to have a fully-formed hero running around a bunch of cardboard silhouettes.

My method is to write biographies for each secondary character.  Not to the extent of the primary characters, to be sure, but a solid bit of background history.  This material is not for print.  If a moment pops up in the flow that allows for some of this material to be passed on, fine, but my intention is strictly as a reference for me.

For example, my recent book required a female hacker-electronics authority.  Not an “expert”.  Not one of these ultra geeks that can pierce any firewall and password with a ten second flurry of keyboarding fingers, but she knows her spuds.

More or less randomly, I decided she hailed from Kentucky.  I may have just watched an episode of “Justified”.  She wasn’t a trailer trash hillbilly but leaned in that direction.  She liked monster trucks and muscle cars, but not as much as her siblings.  She decorated her laptop and gear with the same art as went on the muscle machines.  She’s got that “lone outcast” vibe, but not to the extreme “freak geek” level.  She hung out with the good ol’ boys on a tailgate party, though her mind kept drifting back to her computers.

I decided she rolled over on some other young blackhat hackers when their shenanigans crossed the line into real crime.  She was put into witness protection but hated it with a hot, bored hate.  She also has second thoughts on testifying in general.  She enters the story on the dodge from both the hackers and WITSEC marshals.  She’s got secrets and deflects questions however she can.

And so on and so forth.  There’s more on her personality and whatnot.  

As I say, none of this is intended to see print.  The reader won’t see any bio info dump.  It’s sole purpose is to give me a foundation upon which to stand when the Hero and she have to interact.  I now have a decent idea of how she’ll respond.  What sort of wisecracks.  In a drawl.  How guarded she is.  

I’m sure this is a classic method for any writer.  The somewhat tricky angle is not to be tempted to dump this all on the page.  It’s the “magic behind the curtain”.  Too many writers mop the creative sweat from their brow after a major load of research effort and think all that work HAS to be used in the story.  Thus is born tedious info bloat.

Monday 4 July 2016

Outlines or walking without a map


I have yet to be able to write an outline, as I understand the concept.

The first hurdle I always trip and faceplant over are the changes.  I try and try to make outlines, but by the time I’ve written a few dozen pages, it’s occurred to me that the best friend character will betray the hero.  Oh, and I’ve decided it should be winter instead of summer for added complications, but that requires I plunge deeper into the hero’s biography to decide when and if he’s ever experienced snow and ice…and, when I come up for air, the outline doesn’t work any more.

Essentially, my attempts at outlining a novel match that old adage that “the battle plan never survives contact with the enemy.”

The other aspect that makes outlining a great and convoluted activity is digression.  I try to keep “arm’s length” as I outline, just tapping the major points to guide my route.  Inevitably, I reach a moment, say, this is where the hero escapes imprisonment.  And…suddenly, I get a cool flash of a scene on how he busts loose, with some snappy dialogue or description.  Before I know it, an hour has gone by, I’ve all but written two complete pages of the book and, oh look, my original outline doesn't work any more.

The complicated digression can’t be ignored.  I can’t take a chance that’ll I remember some sparkling line or character notion for when I’m done writing the outline.  Very often, in an early attempt an outline, I have so many detailed sparkling ideas that it becomes far too similar to juggling torches.  I'm sweating not to lose track of any of them.

The best I can do with an outline is to pick a direction.  I start hiking West without any guides, drawing a map of the roads and towns as I encounter them.  Dithering at forks, wondering which is the better choice.  The essential thing is not being afraid to backtrack.  “That was the wrong fork.  Back to the original choice.  Everything I’ve written down is tossed, maybe to use another day for another trip.”  Just keep heading West.

But outlines sound so useful!  

How are they for you?