Tag Archives: fantasy fiction

Editing, the non-thrilling part of writing

So, I am about a third of the way through the final edit on the manuscript for my dragon novel, Dragon Venom. Oi, it’s a tedious process– going back and fixing all those little typos and dropped commas and whatnot. Also changing some of the names of places, as I wasn’t satisfied with the names as they were. I tried a naming scheme for the places that just didn’t quite work out, so all of those need to be fixed, doublechecked, and then the map needs to be re-drawn. My artist and my Photoshop consultant both need to be consulted regarding the changes, and the changes applied to those things.

But, it’s looking good. If I can keep things on track and get over this nasty cold that the kids brought home, I am looking at a June release date. Which, yeah, is ambitious, considering how crazy things are this month, but I am really looking forwards to getting this novel published and out there where people can read it. You can get all the feedback possible from your first readers, but there’s nothing quite like having actual readers reading your work.

I’m also working as an editor on another project, not for money, just for the love. It’s not a very big project, just a short story collection, but I hope to get it done very quickly. Then, I’m going to be working on the next novel in the dragon series, plus I am outlining a suspense novel. Whew. Lots to be done!


Better Late than Never– Story Online

Well, despite some severe setbacks, I have published my story today, finally, here on the blog. Here’s the link— A Dagger in the Rain by Marti Booker.

This is the edited version, slightly longer than the original story that was published in 2001 in the EXTREMES 5 short story collection.

I hope you enjoy it. Leave some feedback if you do!


Alright, Alright, Alright! Story Update

L1009540So, I found the copy of that story, the one I had intended to publish as a standalone short story for your reading pleasure, A Dagger In the Rain. I have it converted into Word (which was a royal pain, thank you Adobe for trying to scalp us continually for cash) and it’s ready to be edited, reformatted, and published.

SO, my Valentine’s gift to you all will be a FREE version of this story, available from February 14th until the 1st of March. I will have a link for you to download it from, and you can have it completely without charge until March. Just keep my name attached to the story if you pass it along to someone, and maybe send them to one of my websites if you’re feeling particularly friendly.

I will then be publishing it, along with several other stories, as a short story collection Unfinished Tragedies: Tales of Ghosts, Curses, and Revenge.

So, I expect to be extremely busy for the next month or so, but I will of course be checking my email so if you have any questions, feel free to shoot them over to me. The hardest thing is going to be training my younger kids what it means when Mommy is working– I haven’t worked as a writer in so many years that they can’t understand that “Mommy at the computer” doesn’t necessarily want to answer six hundred questions and have you cling to her knee, whining, when she’s not paying attention to you! But I don’t doubt that they’ll figure it out just like their older siblings did.

Excited!


Very Special Snowflakes

Authors, I mean. I’ve been delving back into fandom recently. There seems to be a huge blind spot in fandom, wherein the members don’t acknowledge/admit that some of the author’s decisions were made simply to make the story work. There must be some REASON that all of the things written in the book happen. It must MEAN something larger. Conspiracy theory time!

Yeeeech.

Sometimes, we just make decisions based on “what has to happen to get the story to work.” Take GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, for example. In order for the plot to work at all, Tywin Lannister had to sit on his ass for 16 years, staying out of any political involvement in Kings Landing, just minding his own business at Casterly Rock. Otherwise, the Hands of King Robert wouldn’t have started investigating the king’s bastard children and threatening the stability of the Lannister’s hold on the throne.

Does it make a lot of sense that Tywin, who had already been a very successful Hand for several decades, would sit back and watch Robert piss away his grandchildren’s inheritance for 1 1/2 decades? Not really. Knowing Tywin, I’m seriously surprised that Robert didn’t have a lethal accident about ten years ago, with Tywin deftly stepping into the role of Regent at that point.

But, the whole setup of the novel wouldn’t work if that had happened. So the author left Tywin moldering on his Rock with Tyrion fixing his drains and ignored realpolitik for an unconscionably long time. This was, we were told, a man who was seething because Aerys had replaced him as Hand at the end of his reign. I don’t really believe he’d have let three more Hands serve without putting pressure on his daughter to at least get him a council seat. BUT . ..  for the author’s purpose, he had to act as he did. There would have been no series otherwise. But it’s still just an authorial decision. It’s not history. It’s not gospel. It’s just something the author manipulated to set things up for the plot of the book. If you ask “Why?” the only answer that matters is the author’s “Because I said so.” But it still is just a setup.

Similarly, he made Ned Stark have no close living uncles or brothers or sisters. If he had, then a Stark would have been in Winterfell the whole time. Again, ruining the plot of the stories. But authors aren’t more special than other people… they’re just better at telling stories. Stories can be amusing, entertaining, inspiring, and moving. In the end, though, they’re all just pretty lies. And the author is the Liar in Chief, making decisions ruthlessly just to advance the story he or she has in mind. Why do the characters do what they do? If they’re good characters, they’ll have motivations and reasons and justifications. But the author decided to put that particular character in just THAT place at THAT time, remember. It’s all a pretty mummer’s show. 🙂


A Song of Ice and Fire: Dreading Daenerys

I’m a fan of George R.R. Martin, let me say that straight-out. I think he’s accomplished something important in the fantasy genre and has enriched it with his contributions. I’ve been a huge critic of his slow progress on the ASOIAF series, mostly because I want to finish reading it! (But also because he misled us on the completion dates.) I’m still a huge critic of his sex scenes, his fascination with rape, and his really unacceptable sexualization of children. But, I am just as obsessed as any fan with Westeros and the characters therein.

That said, some of the fan-boys and fan-girls make me despair. I mean, seriously, people– you’ve seen what Daenerys Stormborn has brought to Astapor and Qarth and Meereen. Do you really want her to come to King’s Landing?

(Okay, having Cersei incinerated via dragon would be amusing, but otherwise . . .)

I believe that Daenerys and her brother Viserys were sacrificial offerings, if you will– feints. They were the publicly pathetic Targs trotted around the east, just to hide the true heir, Aegon. (Needless to say, I think he’s the real Aegon, not a pretender.) The plotters probably assumed that someone would “off” the two long before they ever got near the Iron Throne. Then the way would be clear for the son of Rhaegar to retake the throne.

Dany getting the dragons to hatch was absolutely an accident, totally unplanned. It thrust her into a role that no one really wants her to play– conqueror of Westeros. Uck. Nobody wants ravenous uncontrollable dragons razing the land, you know. It’s perfectly fine in old stories, but who wants a dragon to pop by their own home? No one.

Dany was never prepared for rule: she’s never been instructed in Westerosi culture, religion, or customs. She’s not even INTERESTED in them, yet people want her on the throne. Whyyyyyyy? So she can mockingly call their clothing “rabbit ears” and get herself deposed for bedding the next blue-haired hottie she lusts after? The girl doesn’t have any circumspection, people. She didn’t even try to hide her affair with Daario. She’s totally clueless that anyone would even find it offensive for a lady to do such a thing.

Daenerys is a train wreck waiting to happen. For the sake of all of Westeros, I hope she finds something more to her tastes than being queen, since she seems to truly suck at it. We don’t need another lousy ruler, please, just someone who combines compassion with just a BIT of common sense. And a butt that’s willing to sit that Iron Throne without whining about the duties it entails.


Trigger . . . un-happy

So I started reading a very hyped and much-praised YA novel the other day.

I got five pages in, then I tossed it across the room and stared at it like it was a rattlesnake.

The book had almost immediately hit my personal triggers, bringing up painful feelings and wretched old memories.

Uhhh, thanks but no thanks, much-hyped author. Which brings us to a discussion of triggers and why you should gently work them into the novel and not, say, bang people over the head with them on the first couple of pages of chapter one.

Whenever you’re going to write about something traumatic, whether it be rape or child abuse, co-dependency or cutting, victimization or violence, you have a choice in how you handle it. Some readers will always throw your book across the room, even if you work it subtly into the theme and story arc. The chances of that are a lot less if you’re truly compassionate towards your readers and not, say, going for the juicy squishy eyeball-kicks and buckets of gore and disgust dumped out in the beginning to “wow” your audience and “hook” them.

Personally, I don’t think that it’s appropriate to write YA novels that normalize bad relationships. Bella and Edward? That’s a sick sick relationship, people. Ms. Meyer should be ashamed of herself for normalizing stalking, obsession, and victimization. It isn’t criminal, but it is wrong . . . why would we want to inflict another generation with stupid sick ideas? Shouldn’t we model healthy relationships for them? Shouldn’t we show that abuse is WRONG?

I feel that, if we are going to use abuse and victimization in a novel, it should be immediately apparent that it is wrong. It’s like the study they recently did on children’s television shows. The study showed that children’s cartoons spent 20 minutes or so on Bad Things Happening and then only 5 minutes on the resolution and Oh That Was Bad, This is How to Fix it. But, since the kids spent 4x as much time watching the bad behaviors, all they remembered from the episode was the bad stuff. They didn’t remember the “good” resolution.

The same thing is going to apply with YA novels. If you normalize the abuse at the beginning and only have your character “break free” or “wake up from it” at the very end, which message do you think you’re really sending to your audience? Or worse, if you have your characters never understand that what they’re living is full of squick . . . that’s a gross negligence on your part.

I know that my opinions on this sort of thing are strong . . . but that’s because we owe the younger generation a better deal than what we’ve been giving them. And we should keep our readers in mind when we’re writing. They’re real people, not just figments of our imagination. What we present and how we present it are important considerations.

Trust me, if I could go back and redact almost everything I wrote before the past two years, I would. I didn’t make good decisions and I didn’t write with any integrity. I can only hope that most of it is lost to time and won’t surface again. It’s just plain embarrassing to have written such dreck.

Aim high, and if you can’t aim high then just aim for humane. Consider if you’d want your great grandchildren to read a piece before you write it. Even if you’re not going to have any descendants, the thought exercise is good. Would you be embarrassed by this in a hundred years? Would you want to hide under the table if one of your writing heroes read it out loud at a convention?

Write well, and write with forethought. Some things, you can never take back.

 


States of disgrace

So, I did a little market research into werewolf novels. All I can say is “Whooooo-boy!”

Rape fantasies, glorified rape fantasies, lots of totally non-subtle bestiality hints, lordy, it’s a mess.

So I asked myself “Can I sell a noirish murder mystery in a market that’s super-saturated with sex?”

The answer mostly seems to be “Not unless I am completely in love with the material and willing to fight for it.” And, today, well, today ain’t that day.

I still think it’s an interesting novel, a compelling story, and a good solid book. I’m just feeling more than a little discouraged by the other material that’s out there. It’s like walking into a fantasy bookshop and only finding Gor knockoffs and p0rn. Sure, there are lots of people that like to read that sort of thing, but I don’t want to write it. And writing something else is going to be like walking into the belly of the beast with a torch and poking at the stomach walls. You’re more likely to get digested than to give the monster indigestion.

So, since I’m discouraged and disheartened and generally feeling the “Ugh, where did my sunlight go?” of seasonal malaise, I decided to write something a little less depressing.

I started working on a picture book about a mythological creature that I invented. And then, because that was just too chipper for my mood, I started working on a cheerful little teen novel that starts out with the mother of the protagonist bleeding to death on a couch.

Because sometimes, “less depressing” is a very relative term.

The state of picure books is what I’d kindly call “hyperkinetic” — really, kids can’t have words anymore, just frantic pictures? But I can still feel generally cheerful about the outlook because it IS, after all, for kids. The state of YA is actually fairly healthy, even if the topics are pretty bleak these days. If a book doesn’t have at least one person leaking their life’s blood onto the upholstery, it’s hardly a YA novel anymore.

Werewolf fiction, though . . . oi. It greatly suffers from not having a Dracula to compare it to. Without a trace of a literary ancestry, it’s just completely devolved into pornographic fanfic. Twilight is bad fiction, but I think she was actually aiming for literature (and just coming massively, massively short.) Face it, if a book has a subtitle that explains that, yes, it IS just nonstop animal sex, well . .. you’re not even aiming for the bleachers.

Maybe I’ll feel more thrilled with the notion in another day or two. Until then, I’ll try to finish my new picture book and work some on the YA thing. Taking a break is a good thing, I think, when the spirit is completely unwilling.


Beginning again

Okay, so I began work on another novel today.

500 words isn’t much, I know, but at least it’s a step in the right direction. I would have written more if the boys had been better-behaved, but having their older brother home sick from school really set them off. Brawls were fought, words were bandied, and scissors were brandished. I took the scissors away.

Anyhow, the new novel is a noir-ish thing, which makes it tricky. Hammett and Chandler both had a gift for saying the least amount possible, making it sound tough and elegant at the same time. I’m writing more of a post-noir noir, where the main character is twenty years beyond his hardcore days and vulnerable in ways that Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe were not (kids, for one.)

I wrote this originally as a short story several months ago, but it didn’t work at the shorter length. I hope it works at novel length, but somehow I’ve got to get it there. 500 words a day will not do it as fast as I’d like.

So, it’s time to tweak the outline and see if I can add more detail to it. It’s immensely easier to write a scene once you’ve outlined it– more of a fill-in-the-gaps exercise than just dredging up raw material and trying to shape it at the same time.

I’d really like to move up to 2000 words per day. 5000 would be excellent but probably not realistic. If I could get the outline to reflect the pacing I need it to show, then . . . oh wait.

Oooooooooooooh . . . an idea.

A bloody gory and thoroughly detestable idea.

I love it already.

See you next week. I’ve got to write this down.


Some heavily-anticipated titles

I was browsing through Amazon and their upcoming releases when I remembered that, wooooot!, the new Dresden Files book is coming out soon.

Here’s the book, cover and all:

The next Dresden Files book

Harry’s hell just froze over . . ..

I’ve been reading the Dresden Files now since about 1999, after my good friend Lena loaned me her paperback copies of the first three books. I’m hoping this one is more of a return to form for Harry after the last one, in which he was . . . kinda dead.

😉

While I was ogling the new Jim Butcher book, I stumbled upon another book that set my skiffy senses tingling:

New Bujold novel

Finally, a book about the darling Ivan . . .

I love Lois McMaster Bujold’s work. Her Barrayar/Miles Vorkosigan books are some of my favorite science fiction books, ever. The last one dropped a brick on us. I wonder what she’ll do about that brick in this book, or even if it gets resolved at all. Might there be another Miles book after this one?

Hope you’re as excited as I am! I will be buying these in hardback, broke or not. 🙂


Making a breakthrough: Plot

I wasn’t able to start writing today, thanks to my daughter’s insane chem class schedule, but I did make a huge advance in my understanding of developing a Plot for a novel.

It was such a simple thing that I am almost ashamed to write it down. However . . .  I think it’s important enough that, if you haven’t already learned it or automatically done it or whatnot, you might want to try it. Just don’t laugh at my poor former “inspiration only” writer self. I’m still learning how to be a “butt in the chair” writer.

I figured out that, for every scene, you need to know not only what’s going on in the scene . . . but WHERE EVERYONE ELSE IS.

Dopey, huh?

I was fiddling around with my main character and he was being interviewed by an unhappy law officer, but I realized that all this STUFF would be going on at the same time. His family would be hearing about the incident, they would be at points A, B, C, and D, and they would be going about their daily routines (and plotting little complications all by themselves) without my main character ever knowing it.

In my last novel, it wasn’t really an issue since my characters were usually A. On a boat or B. All together running like hell. I didn’t have to worry where Fred or Mack or Bob were, not only because they could only be ten yards away, but also due to the psychic thing. If they were plotting revenge, someone would have noticed.

In this book, though, it matters where Bob is while the main character is talking to the cops. It turns out to matter a lot.

So, I made a simple chart for each chapter, which I’m trying to slowly fill in. Character X is at school during Chapter 1, Character Y is at work, but Character Z is covering his ass before the cops come down on him. That becomes a huge divisive element in the book, tearing a family apart as they fight for survival.

And I didn’t even know it because I was plodding along in First Person POV, eyes straight ahead and mind on my main character’s thoughts.

It’s fine to write the book from just his perspective, but as the author, I need to KNOW everything else that’s going on at all times.

Silly how simple it is, isn’t it? But it was so hard to make a leap from casually saying “oh yeah, he was . . . uhh . . . at the tent” to saying “He was at the campground removing the burned bones from the fire pit.” Even if your main character only KNOWS that Bob was at the tent. 🙂

I’m happy. I’m now a better plotter. Hey, I love even small accomplishments. I’ll never be a mystery writer, but I will write a better book next time. And that’s working on my own character arc, right? 😉