Archive | July, 2020


29 Jul

Don’t you love memes?


So despite or maybe perhaps because of quarantine, my niece is writing a book and now she’s told me that she has another idea for a different book. She tells me she’s writing a page a day (sort of) and is torn between what idea she’d like to do.

I’m encouraging her with both projects. That way if one’s feeling dry, she’ll have something else to dabble with. Maybe one’ll spark and she’ll write a ton, then get tired of it and go back to the other one. Maybe she’ll have so many ideas, she’ll have to pull some of them. At her stage, it’s important to just write. And sometimes, it’s important for us writers to do it too – to strike while the iron is hot, and jot down the ideas or a scene or whatever, so we can come back to it.

Now, that doesn’t mean you should be frittering off in endless directions and have five ‘on the go’ novels with no end in sight. Pick one and try to finish it. But is it stagnant? You have writer’s block? You really want to do something else? Obviously this isn’t if your last book ended in a massive cliffhanger or you have a deadline in your series. But, if you’ve been writing for a while and you think you can end the book in reasonable amount of time, by all means philander with another idea. But finish the book you’ve been spending the last few months on, unless you know it’s an absolute dud.

Most writers I know have tons of ideas, and ideas by themselves are important, but there’s more to it. The stick-to-it to make a scene really work. There’s a lot competing for the prospective reader’s attention; the least I can do is ensure I’m providing a certain quality to my writing – so that means I’m going to rework scenes and make the best novel I can. I have ideas I can’t get to for years – the reality is that a book is a long commitment, even if it’s a relatively short book compared to my usual bricks.

My usual way of dealing with a plot issue I can’t solve was to do something repetitive, preferably active, and let my brain sort it out. At the end of all things, passions turn sour simply because it’s no longer fun; I feel great after a workout but believe me, getting motivated to do it some mornings? Hah! You might want to sew an outfit, but you have to go through the tedious process you don’t like – whether that’s restitching something or doing a long, arduous task that seems like zero fun, and will anyone really appreciate and notice all the hard work I’m putting in? Sometimes monotonous tasks are relaxing; my partner at work crochets. When we’re not running calls and have some down time is when we get to chill out. I typically read, write, edit, but some people I know practice musical instruments or do crafts. 85% of the time, she’s relaxed as can be, feet up, enjoying making a blanket or a scarf. When she’s on the home stretch, or she’s wondering if she needs to redo that last segment? I wish I could be more objective and helpful when she wants honest feedback. You can tell when she’s done with something – she gets frustrated and just wants to be done with it – afterall, it’s been freaking months, often times with her undoing weeks worth of work in a single pull if she doesn’t like the way it’s going.

I think that’s part and parcel of being an artist, is that unless you’re being told from on high what to do for money, you typically see the flaws and faults in what you’re doing, and either just want to be done with it, and the next project… well, it’s going to be amazing. Your magnum opus, the project that will define you as a writer. You need to finish what you started, so that your skill level is better for that next project.

Leave it in a desk for a while, start to write the next project, let it breathe, but finish it. You might have abandoned another project for it, once upon a time. Revise, edit, repeat. Do your writer thing. Tower of Obsidian was the seventh book I wrote, and Dreams of Mariposa was under contract after Witchslayer’s Scion. I got nothing on markets and I’m writing a third book for a series the publisher seems kinda meh about.  I’m not abandoning other ideas to work exclusively on the series, the way I see it is that the longer we take to publish the first book, the less time readers have to wait between books should I get the series option.

So by all means dabble in another story. But finish your book. You’ll be glad that you did, instead of having to revisit and relearn the rules you made yourself when you come back to it in a few years. As for me, I need to take better notes for future me.


Summer Holidays and Writing Update

21 Jul

Time flies when you’re on vacation! It wasn’t like the usual where I had the entire block off – I live in an area where I can do On Call from my house, but I’ve also picked up two easy shifts and did a trade to help out a coworker. That being said, I feel like I got a lot accomplished. The first ‘day off’ was pretty much me cleaning my house and getting stuff in order so that I could enjoy the days off, and I’ve been able to keep it mostly clean with maintenance. I’ve been out kayaking at least six or seven times so far this summer; basically if the weather is good I’m outside unless I’m writing. A little behind on the gardening, and I still have some home repairs to do before the fall, but the way I see it is we have six weeks left until September.

Writing is definitely coming along better. I have a bit for a short and it’s finished (the fight scene – fun stuff for me; typically I write the fun stuff first but in this case I worked sort of backwards as compared to where I typically work) thing is, my plan was to finish the draft of Rogue Healer 3 before July, and as per the norm with this series everything’s taking longer than usual, but then things start to work and I’m feeling good about the draft. I beat the dreaded hump. The issue staring me in the face at the moment is that I have several ideas and I know I don’t have enough time to adequately explore them, so it’s picking what I want to emphasize on. I’ll talk about the dreaded hump/finishing a story in another post; right now I could see this easily ballooning up to a 200k novel. The first two are both around 135k, and I’ll go a little over, but I’d rather not go above 150k if I can help it. The publisher will probably want it split into two books, for starters, and the ‘issue’ I see at hand is that the weaving together of multiple character POV’s is if you take too long, it feels like you were invested in what happened to them and then you don’t see them for 100 pages or so. I’ve done it before, and with that novel I ultimately decided I had two real novels in there, so one plot’s been expunged in the rewrite.

Didn’t get any oil painting or even much drawing done; but the way I see it is I’m back for my nights this tour. I probably would have if I didn’t have that ‘home stretch writing itch’ but I also know I’m far from being done.  If I keep up with the pace, I’ll be done with around a 150k novel, and then rewrites after the Beta reads it will involved chopping.

Looking through my reading list: I’m actually ahead this year. It’s because audiobooks and I finally learned a few months ago that I can delay my intake for an ebook. In other words, I want something and it’ll take me say, two months to get it, but someone might finish early and someone else doesn’t want it, so I might get it in say, three weeks. I can delay the hold if it comes because I’m already reading something. Works for me, because the next person in line might as well enjoy it if it’s available.

But yeah: I’m actually taking a stab out of my to-read pile on goodreads. It’s what happens when you haven’t seen your beta reader/book loaner or able to go into a bookstore and pick up something completely different. According to my math, if I do nothing but read the 600+ books on that list at 50ish books a year, that’s 12 years. Eeeee.

Corona honestly isn’t hitting my area as hard as it’s in other places; Manitoba is a relatively low population density area and we’re pretty hardy, self-sufficient people for the most part. It’s pretty much been business as usual for me and my job (paramedic) with a little bit more Body Substance Isolation precautions (fancy terminologies for masks, gloves, eyewear, gowns, etc).

As for the rest of the summer: When Words Collide is online this year. I have no idea how that will play out; I think I’m on nights most of that weekend. R.J. Hore and I will be at the Shelmerdine Farmer’s markets hawking books August 15, so if you’re feeling brave, come on down and see us. I told him if he’s got any concerns to cancel, so that’s our plan. So long as Manitoba numbers are low, we’ll be there.

As for me, back to my daily wordcount. Titan’s still rampaging.

Get your Subgenre Right: IN SPACE

17 Jul

Yeah yeah this took too long to follow up. It’s nice out and I spent the last three days kayaking, camping, and haven’t had my computer on or done any reading besides audiobooks. OTOH, Monday I made big headway in the current WIP; but I’m anxious because I think this one might be a bit longer than the previous two novels. I guess I’ll have to write it then try to knock it down a bit.

This post is shorter, and I’ve mentioned certain science fiction stories already in Part One. I felt like I should do science fiction in part 2 because I think one of the things that really separates science fiction from fantasy is that it seems to be more exclusive than inclusive – in other words, yes, some stories are science fiction in setting, but not really in story. My favourite example are The Riddick Films, which I’ve talked about before. Pitch Black is a horror movie, The Chronicles of Riddick, Riddick, and the animated short Dark Fury are basically Conan the Barbarian in Space, minus the fantasy elements. It, like movies such as Guardians of the Galaxy, are an example of science fiction as setting as opposed to the typical themes explored in science fiction.

What are typical themes? Writers like Margaret Atwood famously rejected writing ‘science fiction’ despite typically writing in what everyone would agree is science fiction. I’m told it’s because of the famously bad movies from before my time, and I can see a point if we can’t agree on definitions. Romance as a literary genre is different than romanticism a literary movement.

I’m here to not only point out that while yes, I think science fiction is a little bit more exclusive than fantasy, the lines blur really easy. Are Infinity Stones magic or, because they’re a natural consequence of creation, science? One thing I know for certain: many science fiction writers I’ve read have really done their research an

It might be easier to put science fiction into spectrums as opposed to categories of either/or.

Hard Science Fiction vs. Soft

How much of your science is rooted in what we know, or what we could utilize? Is it explained? The Martian by Weir started out self-publishing on a blog and other scientists, engineers and specialist helping the writer figure out what the MC would have to do to survive and communicate based on what was realistic to have on a Mars Mission. Soft science fiction is we don’t really explain it or go into great detail. For instance, I’d argue that Never Let Me Go by Ishiguro is soft science fiction. The plot couldn’t happen without the science fiction, but it takes for granted the ‘lesser status’ of synthetic humanoids and isn’t dwelling on exactly how the science of making clones works, so much as the emotional and ethical implications of having second-teir human beings. In other words: there’s science fiction for those who want to know how things work, and science fiction who want to explore the meaning behind what the new technology might bring.

Utopia vs. Dystopia

I’ve talked about cyberpunk before, but dystopias have been hot in the last few years. Whether we’re talking Collins Hunger Games or Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale or MacCarthy’s The Road, there’s something about a gritty sense of reality that people like to read about. On the other end, is basically Star Trek. Utopias or at least an improved world where the water is cleaner, humanity lives free of disease and  things are generally pretty awesome for humanity as we go out and explore the universe. Depending on the dystopia, mankind might BE the plague on the universe, especially if you’re reading eco-science fiction.

But isn’t the Original Star Trek a Space Western?

Its not the only one. I described the series Firefly as a Space Western. If you’re not familiar: The original Star Trek was about exploring the unknown parts of the galaxy ‘To Boldly Go where No One has gone before’, whereas Firefly was about a team of smugglers and mercs living in the outskirts of a solar system, away from and thumbing their noses at the powers that be on the main systems.

But there’s plenty of subcategories. You have your Military Science Fiction, your Space Operas. You have your Cyberpunk, and your Steampunk, I’ve even read some dieselpunk. There is so much here to explore, but I will implore you to give the genre of Afrofuturism a try if you haven’t yet. It’s possible to write a blog-style essay on all of these major subgenres, and we haven’t gotten into much speciality niches yet.

But can we at least admit, finally, that while I can go and enjoy a book or a movie outside of my favourite subgenre, that there’s definitely a difference between the genres?

Get Your Subgenre Right

13 Jul

Now I’ll be the first one to point out that fantasy is an incredibly inclusive genre. Not only can stories with magic realism mean that yes, literature can include fantasy, other genres such as romance or western novels often contain supernatural elements, and if you’re honest about what you’re selling, often times you can find mass appeal to different demographics.

Know what bugs me? Someone rejecting, reviewing, or marketing a novel incorrectly on the basis of getting its classification wrong. I’m not talking about how literature tends to look down on genre. If I get rejection letter that’s personalized and call my book a ‘high fantasy’ when I said ‘sword and sorcery’ I assume they didn’t read the submission. When someone gives me feedback and says “You clearly don’t know much about medieval culture” and I’m not writing about a medieval culture, I wanna ask them when and where they think this book is situated. When I’m going through goodreads and getting a few takes on what other people said about a book I’m interested in, if everyone’s calling a title a “YA Urban fantasy Romance” I’m going to be super suspicious about the reviewer calling it an “Adventure novel with a splash of romance”.

Why does it matter? The same reason that Star Wars and Star Trek aren’t the same genre because they feature space ships with faster-than-light travel. I’m not saying those who prefer one wouldn’t like the other – often, there’s plenty of overlap. But, if you’re in the mood for true crime or realistic detective stories, it may feel like a cop out if you’re suddenly dealing with the supernatural. Or, if you’re in the mood for something spicy in the romance section, you may be disappointed if the title is a ‘sweet romance’, no matter how good it is.

But L.T.! Surely you know that not everything fits into boxes! Absolutely I do – and it can be a beautiful thing when genres mix. I’ll talk fantasy here, then I’ll talk about science fiction subgenres in part 2.

Let’s start with the difference in ‘flavor’ between the two fantasy heavyweights: Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Notwithstanding that there’s very different publishing demands to this day, Tolkien is the hallmark for high fantasy. That means the ‘regular folk’ are interacting with extremely magical denizens regularly, at least within the context of the story. The fantastical elements are front and center in the story. Now, with ASoIaF, Martin based his story heavily on The War of the Roses. It’s a fantasy world and elements, but a good chunk of the story is grounded in something more realistic; with the exception of some fantastic architecture a lot of it could take place in our world. I wouldn’t quite put it in the category of ‘low fantasy’ but GRRM has said in his fantasy world, magic is much less common.


High Fantasy: Magic is either common or the elements are at the forefront. This doesn’t mean it’s all wonder and magic, it can be gritty. I haven’t read the series yet, but I’d put The Witcher here – the main character is a supernatural monster hunter, and he interacts with both mundane and powerful witches, wizards, elves, gnomes on a somewhat regular basis.

Low Fantasy: Magic exists, but it’s almost always in something mysterious or unknown, may only exist in curses, anyway it could be very powerful magic but it’s not as common as the above.  I stick most sword and sorcery in this category, so I’d put Conan The Barbarian here, but not all Wuxia or stories like it would apply.

There’s some blurry lines here, because you can expand or deconstruct also based on some stories that are chosen to be told. For instance, in the Original Star Wars trilogy, The Force is seen as much more mysterious and harder to use as opposed to both the prequel and subsequent sequel trilogies. The former could be explained because we have more jedi with training; the sequels, well, they’re divisive so I’ll shut up. Notice how I haven’t said anything about setting yet? The stereotype is some sort of medievalish castle with dragons and knights. Once again, fantasy stories heavily involve tropes like kings because most of human history had kings, but they weren’t necessarily medieval kings. This isn’t the case moving forward in literature, especially case in point with Star Wars being a futuristic, space adventure setting, but I’ll stop relying on Star Wars for everything and refer to other material for the rest of this post.

Urban Fantasy: Fantasy tropes set in the here and now. Not the ‘I went to a strange land’ like Neverland, Oz or Narnia, though there may be overlap when the white rabbit appears. Perhaps elves walk down the street, or visit here from their parallel dimension. Perhaps you’re off to a secret school to control your powers, known or unknown to the rest of us normies. Harry Potter, Shadowhunters, Harry Dresden fits under here.  It doesn’t mean that the ‘magical’ world is as up to date as the rest of us, or that we normies even know what’s going on in the realm of the fantastic.

Urban Fantasy isn’t the first genre to sort of overlap with fantasy tropes. I think I’ve read one Harry Dresdon book, and he’s a detective. The Dark Tower series by Steven King, to keep it simple, Roland’s world is like a dystopian western with Low Fantasy elements – immensely powerful magic exists, but only for a select few, the gunslingers most seem to be at its mercy. Romance can easily overlap in novels such as The Kushiel’s Legacy Trilogy by Jaqueline Carey. My Beta Reader, R.J. Hore, describes his Dark Lady and Queen’s Pawn trilogies as medieval fantasies and it’s the very familiar tropes: Knights, queens, princesses and dragons.  I would describe the medieval as the setting, and both subsequent trilogies having low fantasy power elements, with the Dark Lady being more character focused and darker in tone than The Queen’s Pawn being more of a fantasy-romance adventure, which is also considerably lighter in tone.

Historical Fantasy: I’ve argued about whether or not this is alternative history; my argument is that it’s like Harry Potter and the magic is so well hidden or ‘goes away’ without record, history would dismiss the fantastic sights of mermaids as delusional sailors. I’ll talk more about Alternative History in the Science Fiction Segment of this post. You’re in merry old England, set in the era of King Arthur, and you’ve got a realistic twist on the familiar elements, at least for the most part. In this version of the story, Merlin’s got actual magic powers, and isn’t just a druid using herbs and psychology, and The Lady of the Lake is a supernatural entity in some capacity. Tower of Obsidian fits into this category, and the story suggests fantasy elements were something of a bygone era, and by novel’s end, at least part of that magical element has left our world. High Fantasy? Low Fantasy? When we’re in the fantasy part of the novel, high fantasy elements all the way – princess in a tower, elf-like beings who should have shoved off centuries ago, and besides all the dragons and immortality, Aaron talks to dead spirits who are stuck there and gets a magic sword. When we’re back in Ireland, everything is relatively historically accurate.

Science Fantasy: Science fiction and fantasy merge! The easiest one to talk about here is Star Wars – and I said I wouldn’t. A comic I read growing up called The Warlord was basically set in Pellucidar, (it was called Skartarish) and was about a fantasy-esque world with unicorns, dinosaurs, and a man from our world discovering lost Atlantean tech along the way. Google it, it’ll say it’s a sword and sorcery series. I have only my dad’s really old comics to go with, so I have no idea how it ends.

Paranormal: Now we’re launching into horror! Werewolves, vampires, things that go bump in the night. Once again, can be based in different eras; whether we’re contemporary having werewolves in school or a historical vampire novel, or set way into the future; if you want vampires in space, check out R.J. Hore’s Housetrap Novella series, his main character fights them regularly. Why is this ‘launching into horror’? Because horror novels don’t need to have fantastical elements. The classic film Psycho is an example of absolutely nothing supernatural happening, and it’s considered a horror classic. While we’re on the subject of film, The Thing is considered to be a perfect movie by many. It’s a brilliant combination of science fiction and horror, and I’ll chat more about it in the second part of this post.

Slipstream/Magic Realism/Those Literary Genres: I’m being a bit of a turd, but this is typically where the ‘real’ authors play. To be fair, if I want to read a sword-swinging adventure, it’s probably not the same as someone who wants to read something that plays around with a person’s mind or explore how one’s culture and beliefs is reflective in how they perceive the world today. I’ll grant them that they’re playing in the big category of ‘fantasy’ but a specialized niche. They play between realistic elements and typically introduce fantastical elements to explore a theme. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger would be an example.


Those are the big categories. Clearly, there’s overlap and I for one welcome it, but when you’re reviewing, especially if you’re told in big letters in say, the back blurb or whatever, try to get it right.

But L.T.! You haven’t mentioned things like fairy tales or mythology!

               Absolutely you’re right.

You can take a mythology and update it, like in The Percy Jackson books. You can take a fairy tale and put it in a science fiction setting, like Cinder, or perhaps this famous Tex Avery Cartoon.

The point I’m trying to make is, that it’s okay if you lead with Cinder as a fairy tale or an updated science fiction take on the beloved story of Cinderella. Both of those are right. What is wrong is saying it’s a high fantasy story set in space.

Respect your audience, and your author. Show them you know what you’re talking about. I’ll talk science fiction in part 2.