I’ve not been well for a few months now with a cold and then a cough that just won’t go away. But this is my last week of work and then I am taking a three week holiday. Really looking forward to a nice relaxing break….Okay, and maybe just a smidgen of fun 😉
Back to the blog…
So, I’m well and truly fed up of the sick club and can’t wait to get back to blogging. I have some fun blog posts queued up and will get cracking on them while I am on holiday! So pull up your chair and get the popcorn out!
I’ll be in Brisbane for Christmas and New year, and I will also drop a couple of posts of our travels while there. It’s been over five years since my last visit and I expect it will have changed a fair bit. It’s a long flight from Perth, too, so any scifi or fantasy reading recommendations would be appreciated!
When I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself I was busy writing my new book series. I’m into editing now and happy with the way the book turned out. I usually aim for 100-110k and then cut about 10-20%. This time I didn’t quite make 90k in the draft and it’s tracking at around 80k after the first editing cull. I normally struggle to keep the word count down so this is a new experience for me! I’m comfortable with the storyline and will see how it feels as I read. Sometimes gaps become obvious later, but I would rather it was a good 80k than try and pad it out!
Book 2 for the Divided World Series should be coming out in print soon. And Book 3 just needs a final read, so lots coming in the new year!
Let’s get creative…
I’ve had a lot of fun writing the new book. It was nice to get back into the creative side of writing after so long editing and tweaking the last series. But now the draft is done, I do enjoy the editing 🙂
Happy reading and writing! 🙂
Today I’d like to talk about sports; specifically how they can make you a better writer of genre fiction. I think most of us (and I know this is a stereotype) who write sci-fi and fantasy are much more comfortable in a library than in a gym, or more at home at a tabletop playing an RPG than on a hardtop playing basketball. I speak from experience. No one will ever mistake me for an athlete, but that didn’t stop me from trying.
Let’s face it, in genre fiction, there are a lot of sports. As Grandpa says in The Princess Bride: “Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…” You get the picture. “So?” I hear you say, “How does that apply to me and my writing?” Well, I’m glad you asked. I’ll give you some examples from my life.
I played high school (American) football, so I know what it feels like to take a bone-jarring blow to the helmet. I know that smell of blood you get in the back of your sinuses when you get your bell rung. I know what it feels like to have the instep of your foot touch your inner shin (not good). I know what it’s like when opposing forces in pads (the modern equivalent of armor) crash together and try to break each other’s lines. I know how a field smells and feels different in the rain from one that is sun-scorched or nearly frozen with frost. And I know how it feels to see one of your closest friends carted off with a serious injury.
I played rugby in college, so I know what a femur sounds like when it snaps in half (a gunshot is a close approximation), and how the scream afterward is even worse. I know what it feels like to have your shoulder torn out of the socket. I know what my lungs and legs feel like when they’ve got nothing left to give, but somehow find a way to run one more sprint and pile into one more scrum. I know how thirty alpha-males act when they try to kill each other for an hour, and then party like brothers until the dawn (I will go to my grave believing that the spirit of the Viking raid lives on in modern times as a visiting rugby club).
I also took karate and kickboxing in college, and wrestled in high school, so I know what it’s like to grapple with another human being in close quarters, smelling their breath and their unfamiliar scent as they try to hurt or defeat you. I know what it feels like (because I didn’t make weight that week) to wrestle a giant. I know what it feels like to get hit so hard that you can’t breathe and your vision goes dark and hazy. I know how it feels to throw so many punches that you wonder who’s really taking the worst of the bout.
I am into target shooting, so I know that a real gunshot is RIDICULOUSLY louder than on TV and the movies. I know what burnt gunpowder smells like. I know that after a day at the range (or, one can imagine, a lengthy battle) your hands are black with burnt powder. I know that when an ejected brass casing hits your skin it feels like someone trying to put a cigarette out on you (or so I imagine – thankfully, that is one thing I have not experienced). I know how a gun can malfunction in different ways, and how to safely fix the problem. I know that real gun experts are never nonchalant with weapons, no matter how “cool” they might be.
So you see, sports can lend a level of verisimilitude to your writing that it might otherwise lack. Even if you just go for a walk or a hike until you can’t take one more step, that’s useful information you can draw on the next time you write about a long and arduous journey. Do as many pushups as you can until you want to puke, then you’ll get a sense of what your character is feeling when she is pushed to her physical limits. Run as fast as you can for as far as you can, and maybe you can use that when you write about your characters fleeing the alien invasion. And if you go out for a team, you might make it, and then you’ll learn about the camaraderie and fellowship of folks who push themselves and each other to be their best. That certainly can’t hurt, right?
So yeah, sports.
About our guest blogger…
Jason J. McCuiston was born in the wilds of southeast Tennessee, where he was raised on a healthy diet of old horror movies (both classic and of the B variety), westerns and war movies, comic books and old pulp magazines, sci-fi and fantasy novels, and, yes, Dungeons & Dragons. He attended the finest state school that would have him where he studied art before coming to grips with the hard truth that his heart just wasn’t in illustrating other folks’ stories. Following his matriculation, he embarked on a whirlwind tour of underpaid and uninspired career paths until finally realizing that all his forays into role-playing games, comic books, and creative design were merely the manifestation of his innate desire to be a storyteller.
So for the next twenty-odd years, he slogged his way through the jungles of terribly amateurish prose, waded the never-ending streams of form rejections, navigated through the cyclopean obelisks of scathing (yet often constructive) criticisms, and finally climbed the daunting peaks of Personal Growth, Craft, and Skill in search of his goal: the fabled Shangri La of becoming a published and prolific author of speculative adventures.
He can be found on the internet at:
His story, “The Wyvern” can be found in Pole to Pole Publishing’s new anthology, Dark Luminous Wings. It is a post-apocalyptic steampunk horror story set in the skies above a Mojave Desert filled with magic and dark memories.
His first published story, “The Last Red Lantern” can still be found in Parsec Ink’s Triangulation: Appetites anthology.
“For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”
― Anne Lamott,
My imagination makes me human and makes me a fool;
it gives me all the world and exiles me from it.
~Ursula K. Le Guin
I am sure most of us have read one of these stories, they start with a brief scene, and then the story jump’s back in time. Books that end where they begin can be a little hit and miss in my opinion. It’s all down to the execution, along with a smidgen of personal taste.
One’s that don’t work.
For me, the ones that leave me with a slightly disgruntled feeling are the cliff-hanger at the start. Yes, I know all the theories about cliff-hangers forcing your readers to just keep turning the page, but to be honest they just irritate me. Five pages in and it’s just getting exciting, and then it jumps back years. You keep turning the pages, hoping that it is going to get back to the action, but it doesn’t for – ever – and I am afraid I just want to throw the damn book out.
You keep doggedly reading, surely it has to get back to that little teaser sometime soon?
You hit mid-point.
You hit three-quarters!
Do I keep reading, well, sometimes, if the rest of it is interesting enough, but it generally leaves me – disatisfied.
One’s that do work
I am going to use one of my all time favourites for an example Use of Weapons – Ian M Banks
The book begins with a scene. It’s not a cliff hanger, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense.
It leaves you intrigued…
Yes, the difference is subtle, and the scene at the start is fairly short. You know it’s the main character, but as you read the story, that early scene almost feels like a different person, and you are – intrigued – as to what made this change.
It has one of the most awesome endings of any book I have read ever. Yes, that is a pretty bold statement. I re-read the last 10 or so pages about 5 times because I kept thinking (or wishing) I had read it wrong! Now that’s a good book, one that picks you up and takes you somewhere that you really don’t want to go.
At the end it plays out the original scene, and like any true revelation, it all makes perfect sense.
Reading is about as personal as it can get, and what works for one person may not work for someone else, but I do like a good circular story, so long as they get the subtle blend right.