A very long time ago (1991), I studied poetry at Bennington College with a man by the name of D___ G____ (name redacted to protect the innocent guy). He later went on to become the head of the _____ _____ for the ____. He was a poetry and language badass – a speaker of five languages, translating poetry from Italian and crap like that. I don’t think he liked me very much. Often he’d select my poem – when we were NOT doing open workshopping – and eviscerate it in front of the whole class. He was a prick, honestly. But in his defense, I was a total idiot in 1991, just 20 years old and convinced I knew more than any one else. Really insufferable. (Don’t start, okay? Yeah, I know I’ve left myself wide open.). (more…)Read More...
Posts made in June, 2011
I would love to read lying in a hammock some place scenic and not face-meltingly hot like Texas, possibly getting wafted with a palm frond (or similar wafting-type device) by my favorite cabana Spouse. However, it’s far more likely that I am reading:
- Under my desk at work while eating something that probably wasn’t food until the fast food industry got hold of it.
- While cooking dinner over a hot stove with a rugrat dangling from each arm.
- At the end of a long day, pausing every ten minutes to scream at aforementioned rugrats to go to sleep and let me have five frickin’ seconds of peace.
- Holed up in my room at a convention with a bottle of cheap wine when I really ought to be out on the scene being fabulous and interesting.
Basically, I am ridiculously busy and I don’t mind, but it means I can’t devote my whole brain to reading these days. I suspect that my situation is similar to the demographic heavy reader (women of a certain age who live in the ‘burbs) so I try to take note of what annoys me in a book. I’m not the poster girl for normal, but I can pass for one on occasion. I used to have pet peeves. Now I have working parameters. Here’s three plus a freebie:Read More...
My biggest pet peeve? That I’ve lost that sense of adventure that I got while reading as a teen. I can hardly read a story now where I don’t see the author typing on the other side of the page. I know, I know, that’s not really what the topic is about, but it’s still rather annoying. It’s also a common refrain among authors. As we learn more how stories work, we’re more apt to notice things that can knock us right out of a story.
And if it’s this way for us, imagine how it is for editors. They read way more stories than I do, and they see all the nasty roots that reach up and trip the young writer all too often. They’re attuned to those things so keenly that (I imagine) they have to work overtime just to stay in some stories that they feel show promise.
The moral of the story, I suppose, is to remove all those exposed roots before handing the story to the editor. Easier said than done, I know.Read More...
I’m late posting. Sorry. I’ve been writing — which is a good thing — and I’m on a tight deadline — which isn’t fun but it’s still a good thing. Anyway, I don’t much like complaining about bad writing in public. It comes off as if the person complaining is somehow perfect or superior. No one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes — it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been at it. Also, every genre has its tropes. What would never be considered good writing in one genre can (and is) considered the standard in another. To each their own, you know? Anyway, here are my three.
Nothing will bounce me out of a story faster than ye old Mary Sue/Larry Stu. It just comes off as juvenile author wish-fulfillment. It’s especially annoying if everyone feels the character in question is sexually attractive, even when it’s been made clear they are average or plain. Also, stories where absolutely everyone appearing in the narrative is physically perfect. That’s just not reality. (It’s also my least favorite thing about modern films. It seems there are no character actors any more.) I’ll lump the “special snowflake” into this category too — that is, the person around whom the universe revolves and/or would fall apart without. Yuck. I never even liked it when Frank Herbert did it in Dune. (Yes, I like that book, but I generally skip the last part because the messiah routine makes me want to barf.) Even Buffy needed the Scoobies, bats and ghouls. That’s what kicked ass about Buffy.
Bad humor. Ask any actor. Drama is dead easy. Comedy is hard. Comedy requires a sense of timing and tension. (That is, tension between the expected and the unexpected.) This is particularly true of prose. Don’t let your characters laugh at their own jokes. If they laugh, not only does it release the tension for the reader, it looks like the character is gouging the reader in the side and saying, “Look! That’s funny!” Usually, it isn’t. It’s even more so when the character repeatedly elbows the reader. Meh.
Movie dialog in prose. Film dialog uses specific patterns because films have two hours or less to establish characters, plot, conflict and setting/time. Otherwise, viewers are confused. (Which is why you end up with “As you know, Bob, the meteor is only a day away from crushing the planet, and the world is in chaos!” It’s okay to do that within a film. It’s very not okay in prose.) Listen to how real people speak. How often do you hear someone repeat the other person’s name if there are only two people in a room? Bet you’ll discover the number is zero.
Well, those are my three, what are yours?Read More...
My biggest pet peeve in writing? Right now it’s this one chapter of The Tainted City (sequel to The Whitefire Crossing) that I’ve written about five different ways and I’m still not happy with it. But! That’s not the point of this topic, so I shall move on – much as I am with The Tainted City. (Always better to come back later to the offending chapter with fresh eyes, rather than get sucked into a morass of perfectionism and stall out.)
Much as I love writing, I have to admit it’s got one downside: the more I write, the more picky I get over the books I read for fun. Things that once might’ve inspired a brief annoyed sigh while reading now jar me right out of the story, sometimes irrevocably. A shame, because a forgiving reader is a happier reader, with a much wider pool of potential books to enjoy.
Pet peeves are funny things: what drives me crazy as a reader might not ping your radar at all. Thank goodness for that – it’s such a relief as an author to know how idiosyncratic questions of taste and style really are. Just because one reader (or agent or editor) doesn’t like your work, it doesn’t mean the next will feel the same.
And story is king over all: even now I’ve gotten over-sensitive to craft/style, I’ll keep reading past every single one of my pet peeves if the author is a good enough storyteller. (It’s just that the bar for “good enough storyteller” keeps getting higher for me every year, darn it.)
So what bugs the heck out of me these days when I read books? For what it’s worth, here are the top three things that throw me out of a story: (more…)Read More...
Ari Marmell is a fantasy and horror novelist of both original and tie-in fiction, as well as a freelance writer for role-playing games. For those of you who are paying attention, yes, his newest novel, The Goblin Corps, makes substantial use of the tropes of traditional fantasy. This was both deliberate and integral, and Ari will happily feed anyone who says otherwise to the kobolds.
I am, even as I type this, currently taking a break from the daily grind—which, in this case, is defined as producing word count for my novel-in-progress. Said break was not so much deliberate or willing as it was enforced by the fact that I appear to have written myself into a corner. The fact that I’m a diehard outliner is supposed to prevent this sort of thing, dang it!
But, uh, that’s not really the sort of “pet peeve in writing” you came here to read about, is it?
Yep, “pet peeves in writing” is the topic for this week’s Night Bazaar blog entries, and I’ve been invited to participate. And while I’m told I was welcome to come up with my own subject, using a pre-assigned topic requires substantially less mental effort.
It also happens to be something I’m actually interested in talking about, so we all got lucky this time around. (more…)Read More...
- Huge congrats to John, whose Incarcerado Trilogy (comprising The Twelve Fingered Boy, Incarcerado, and The End of All Things) sold in a pre-empt to Andrew Karre at Carolrhoda Lab! The novels are YA, with the first to publish in spring 2012.
- Night Shade Books has released the lineup to The Book of Cthuhlu in which John has a story called “The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife” – and he’s in seriously awesome company.
- Press 53 has released the lineup to The Surreal South ’11 in which John has a story called “Old Dogs, New Tricks”
- John will be appearing next year at the Arkansas Literary Festival – and if you’re wondering how he’s managed to have such a kickass year, check out the post at his blog in which he reveals the secret to his success.
- Martha and Stina are both at ApolloCon this weekend – Martha is the Guest of Honor, and Stina will be doing panels, readings, and an autograph session.
- Courtney will be giving away another ARC of The Whitefire Crossing over at the Qwillery with her guest post there this coming Tues, June 28.
Note: I just wrote this entire post in an hour without, for some reason, doing a Save Draft — and when I hit “publish,” I discovered that the cafe I am in had lost its internet connection. I just rewrote it from memory at about 1/3 the length, so I missed a lot of great stuff, surely. Sorry! Blame the internet.
Because of the generation I come out of, I consider myself so fantastically predictable when it comes to my favorite horror novels that it’s barely even worth making a list. However, I realize that my view of “predictable” may be a little odd. I also must quote Douglas Winter’s very sensible sentiment that the idea of defining horror in literary terms hinges not on its marketing schtick.
Winter said: “Horror is not a genre. It is an emotion.” I echo his sentiment.
Furthermore, I realized that, for me, the best horror ever written is not in novel form, so I brought out my well-used meat cleaver, sharpened it up on my whetstone, and hacked off the word “Novels” from this post concept. Then I decided that I wasn’t going to draw lines between horror and science fiction , or horror and fantasy. With a broad definition, this is my favorite horror.
Some of Thomas S. Roche’s Favorite Horror:
“On the Far Side of the Cadillac Desert With Dead Folks” by Joe R. Lansdale, originally published in Skipp & Spector’s The Book of the Dead, which is hard to find, and reprinted in Lansdale’s great collection By Bizarre Hands, which isn’t. “OTFSOTCDWDF” is, to my mind, the greatest piece of short zombie fiction ever written.
The Book of the Dead, Still Dead and Skipp & Spector in general, particularly The Light at the End.
World War Z by Max Brooks.
The Mythos stories of H.P. Lovecraft, and everyone who ever added to it, no matter how good or bad they are. Brian McNaughton wrote a Mythos story called “Mud” that was in my anthology Graven Images that has proven recurrently influential on me. (more…)Read More...
For somebody who writes about violence as much as I do, you’d think I’d be a big horror books/movies fan.
Alas, this is not the case.
Oh, sure, I enjoy the occasional gritty psychological horror movie or book, but they have to be smart and well-plotted, with more going on than just torture porn… and no creepy supernatural stuff. If they’ve got creepy ghosts/supernatural crap in them, that’s right out. Don’t even get me started. I won’t sleep for a week. I started reading John Bellair’s books as a pre-teen, and they left me curled up in the blankets all night, sweaty and fearful that some creepy thing I couldn’t fight was going to torture me in the night.
In fact, what drew me back to reading any horror novels at all was Stephen King, whose early stuff I started to read not for the creepy factor but for the plotting. King’s early books are incredibly well plotted, with unlikeable but relatable characters. Carrie, Cujo, Thinner, The Shining, Pet Semetary – I’ve read a ton of the early stuff, and I’d like to think I’m… well, if not a better writer then becoming a better writer in the plot department because of it. (more…)Read More...
1) They are usually short enough that you can read the whole thing right before bed and give yourself nightmares.
2) You can pick up old horror for super cheap at used book stores.
3) The classics are all about the implied doom, not the gory details. It’s always creepier to imagine what horrors ensued after the monsters attacked than to have it described. This is why I don’t really get into modern horror movies.
I’m a chiropractor. We get all the same education a medical doctor gets but our treatment methods are focused on biomechanical problems. So I spend a vast amount of time thinking about the human body – how it is put together and what happens when it breaks. The minute the gore starts, I click into doctor mode:
A knife wound there wouldn’t spurt blood like that. What? He supposedly died from that? No way.
Oh look, he’s limping correctly for the angle and depth of stab wounds he just received from the monster’s claws. Nice.
Oop, that’s not what happens when you rip someone’s head off. Is that spaghetti string supposed to be her spinal column?
Jesus, what is that girl stuffed with? Chili? I swear she just spewed a meatball out of that stomach wound.
And then it’s just silliness instead of scariness. You should imagine the above as an internal monologue because I have learned from long years of getting hit with couch pillows not to say these things during actual movies. I would actually love some recommendations on modern horror so feel free to suggest what you like!
Here’s a quick list of my favorites:Read More...