Posts in the "Guest Post" Category
Howard Andrew Jones is the author of The Desert of Souls (Thomas Dunne Books, 2011), Plague of Shadows (Paizo, March 2011), short story collection The Waters of Eternity, Managing Editor of Black Gate magazine, and editor of the Bison Books historical collections of Harold Lamb. Visit him online at www.howardandrewjones.com.
There are any number of writer myths, some more obviously fanciful than others. I think most working in the industry or working hard to join it know that a novel contract almost never means book tours, limousine rides, and sudden wealth. But there are other myths writers still hear a lot about today, and they’re complex enough that they can’t be confirmed or denied with a few simple words. I want to take a look at three of the ones that have confused or aggravated me the most over the years.
1. Write What you Know
This warhorse gets trotted out year after year, decade after decade. Many creative writing programs enforce it so stringently that we have an entire genre of fiction narrated by grad students in creative writing programs, because the authors are writing what they know.
That’s fine if writing about your writing program is what inspires you to write (or if that’s what you want to read), but enforcing that dictum seems like a misapplication of sound advice by overzealous disciples – those who implement the law without understanding the reasons.
It is really hard to write about, say, ancient Sumatra if you’ve never read anything about Sumatra, let alone ever been there. While reading submissions at Black Gate I’ve come across any number of stories that had to be rejected because it was clear from the start that the author didn’t actually know anything about the subject, or even the tenets of the genre. Those are the people this advice is for. If you don’t know anything about Sumatra, or police procedures, or deep space, but want to write about those particular things, you don’t have to personally experience them, though that would surely help (if you have a time machine to research your authentic pirate novel, let me know, I need to borrow it) – you have to put the effort into the research so that you know the material and can effectively bring it to life, thereby writing what you know. (more…)Read More...
Aliette de Bodard has won the BSFA Award for Best Short Fiction, as well as Writers of the Future. She has also been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula and Campbell Award. Her Aztec mystery-fantasies, Servant of the Underworld, Harbinger of the Storm, and the forthcoming Master of the House of Darts, are published by Angry Robot, worldwide. Her short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in a number of venues, such as Interzone, Realms of Fantasy, Asimov’s, and The Year’s Best Science Fiction.
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses–not only characters but writers, too. We have natural abilities, as well as things we are less good at: when I started out, I could effortlessly plot–the rhythm of a story was something I could understand instinctively, and I had very little trouble with pacing my stories. I had, however, very little eye for a smaller kind of rhythm, the one found in sentences; and it took me several years of reading Ursula Le Guin, Patricia McKillip and various English poets before I could understand the basic musicality of the language.
Strengths and weaknesses do not remain static: I used to have lots of trouble with exposition, struggling to remove infodumps from my narration, and to offer up information to the reader at a point where they needed it. Writing story after story, and being critiqued, led me to becoming better and better at exposition. It is very clear to me when I pull out early stories such as the very first Obsidian and Blood ones: “Obsidian Shards” has a very complex background, but exposition is delivered in large chunks, at a time in the narration when the reader needs it. This ensures that the relevant information is present, but it’s a clumsy technique. By contrast, when I wrote the last Obsidian and Blood book, Master of the House of Darts (more than four years after writing “Obsidian Shards”), I handled exposition in more subtle and fluid ways: I inserted worldbuilding into the way my characters breathed and thought, touched up my dialogue with typical expressions from the Aztec culture, and broke up descriptions into smaller chunks that brought atmosphere to a scene without overwhelming it. It’s evident, looking at both pieces of writing side by side, that in four years I have progressed immeasurably as a writer, by adding to my strengths. (more…)Read More...
Adam Christopher was born in Auckland, New Zealand, and grew up watching Pertwee-era Doctor Who and listening to The Beatles, which isn’t a bad start for a child of the Eighties. In 2006, Adam moved to the sunny North West of England, where he now lives in domestic bliss with his wife and cat in a house next to a canal, although he has yet to take up any fishing-related activities.
When not writing Adam can be found drinking tea and obsessing over DC Comics, Stephen King, and The Cure. His first novel, EMPIRE STATE, is out from Angry Robot books in January 2012. For more information, please visit angryrobotbooks.com.
Books and reading are two of the most important things we need as we grow up. I don’t need to tell you that, or explain why this is. You and me, we know this is a fact. And for some of us, reading and writing went hand-in-hand – I’ve still got exercise books full of stories I wrote from about the age of seven up, and, perhaps not surprisingly, these stories reflected what I was reading at the time.
I’m of a certain age where the term “YA” didn’t exist, not as a distinct marketing term anyway, when I was growing up. Books that might fit that category now certainly did exist, and there were books that were either labelled as suitable for “12+”, or were somewhat clunky, calculated “teen” reads, heavy with issues and serious business that for me, as a fan of ghosts and spaceships and time travel, were of no interest at all.
My greatest childhood reading memory, the books that meant the most to me, that spurred me on to write my own stories, were the Target Doctor Who novelisations. From 1973 to 1991, 152 paperbacks were produced (plus three early adaptations from the 1960s), novelising the TV adventures of the famous Time Lord.Read More...
Genevieve Valentine’s short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, and others, and the anthologies The Living Dead 2, Teeth, After, and more. Her nonfiction has appeared in Weird Tales, Tor.com, and Fantasy Magazine, and she’s a co-author of Geek Wisdom, a book of pop-culture philosophy from Quirk Books.
Her first novel, Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, is out now from Prime; you can learn more at http://circus-tresaulti.com. Her appetite for bad movies is insatiable, a tragedy she tracks on her blog [http://genevievevalentine.com].
She is very thankful to The Night Bazaar for the invitation to blog.
When my novel Mechanique came out earlier this year, I spent a week on a four-hundred word Acknowledgments page, trying to balance brevity with judicious thanks to all those who made the book possible. It was all that was required (very few people like to curl up with 20 pages of acknowledgments), but it also didn’t encompass the full scope of thanks I knew were due.
When the Night Bazaar asked me to write about things I am thankful for, I decided that, despite my general allergy to sincerity, it was the perfect time to thank some of those who enrich my life, make my writing possible, and brighten the entire world (results pending).
I’d like to begin with my parents, who (when as a child I made the announcement that I wanted to write professionally) proposed not to look at my writing pre-publication, in case it would make me too self-conscious. As it turns out, I was the world’s most self-conscious teenager, but never about that, so, mission accomplished! I appreciate that my parents trusted I knew what I wanted and let me go about it how I chose, though even today I have occasionally described a story I’m working on, and there’s a little pause before my mom says, “I’m sure it will be very nice,” in a tone that suggests she’s trying to decide what to tell her family and friends if they call up asking her what the hell is going on with me, which I assure her repeatedly will never happen.
Related: Thanks to all family and family friends who have called my mom to ask what the hell is going on with me. It’s good to keep her on her toes!Read More...
I was six when I learned about the end of the world. My dad and I were having burgers at the Boardwalk, our little town’s only diner, where tables consisted of repurposed and shellacked heavy-cable spools and where, behind the polished maple bar, hung a clearly displayed Colt .45 in a well-used holster, a hunting rifle, the head of a six-point buck, an American flag. It was 1979, and I’d just asked my dad if the Iranians were our worst enemies, because I’d been listening to the old ranchers at the next table talking about bombing that place straight back to hell. I knew the answer was yes, because Iran had taken hostages and it was on the news every night, and even the old ranchers were talking about it. Iranians were bad, bad people.
But I remember: my dad setting his burger carefully onto his plate and leaning forward to peer at me from beneath the brim of his best cowboy hat. The clean one, his going-out hat. I remember him shaking his head, and his eyes tightening around the words:
He told me, in vivid detail, about nuclear weapons. How a nuke detonating ten miles off would vaporize you before you could blink, and for some reason I imagined this happening to my mom. He told me how, at that very moment, the Americans and Soviets were poised to fire nuclear missiles at each other—enough missiles to vaporize everything, over and over and over.
It began a period in my life lasting several years, until high school, during which I had recurring dreams about the flash of white light, usually viewed through my bedroom window, over the mountains to the east. That’s where the dream began and ended. The flash, and I would start awake, thinking of my friends, of my mom, of my dog and my brother.
I didn’t want them to get vaporized.Read More...
Mazarkis Williams has degrees in history and physics, and a passion for cooking and cats. Mazarkis has roots in both Britain and America, having been educated and working in both, and now divides time between Bristol and Boston.
First, a recognition that Halloween, or Samhain, is a high holiday for many of my friends. It is for honoring the dead, recognizing the end of the year, and putting forward hopes for the next. With apologies, in this post I will write instead of the Halloween we see on television.
The television specials that pop up around the year reflect our own understanding and our own hopes for the holidays. We want to start fresh at the New Year, make dates for Valentine’s, and gather together with our families for Thanksgiving, and TV faithfully represents that—usually in a banal, comforting way. But Halloween is not suited to pat answers and easy emotional resolutions, so there were never many shows for Halloween until recently.
During my childhood there was only It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, which shows Linus waiting all night for the spirit of the pumpkin patch to appear. I knew it had a deeper message to share about faith and patience, something I was too young and areligious to understand, but it also had Snoopy, and that was enough for me. By the time my kids were old enough to watch it, it came so early in relation to the holiday, and was so peppered with commercial breaks, that something felt lost. Whatever cultural relevance it would have offered my children had vanished.
My children found their own way to Halloween on TV. They found Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (more…)Read More...
Erin Hoffman is a novelist and video game designer from California. Her short fiction and poetry have appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Electric Velocipede, Asimov’s, and others, and she writes nonfiction for The Escapist, a leading game industry magazine.
Well, hello! Night Bazaar — what a neat concept. Thank you for having me.
Oh, point of view. Den of thorns and shipwrecker of dreams. Actually, it’s not that bad.
Point of view in particular I think tends to be a matter of fashion, which can also be a matter of region, or in our case, subgenre. Mainstream fantasy tends to be dominated by third person, predominantly multi-perspective these days, with rare forays into omniscient third. First person seems to indicate literary aspiration. Then you jump over to paranormal romance and it’s all first person, an inheritance from mystery. All of this is mostly subliminal communication with the reader: I am familiar, I am what you like, I get you and we get it so let us dance together in the moonlight.
Sword of Fire and Sea is my first novel, but I’ve written and had published stories in a variety of points of view: first person, third person, omniscient/fable. Poetry, likewise, in a variety. I made a specific decision with the Chaos Knight to use an extremely close third that had mostly to do with pacing and characterization.Read More...
Michael Dempsey is a theatre actor, director, playwright, former TV and film writer. His first novel, a sci fi noir thriller called NECROPOLIS, was released this very week, so he’s doing his best to keep busy and not be a total nervous wreck. Here, in keeping with the “Writing Advice We Hate” theme, he ponders “How To” books and writing gurus.
I’ve always had a knee-jerk reaction to authority (and not in a good way). But I grudgingly concede that we need rules in life. Things would be ugly out there if everyone ignored traffic lights, put aluminum foil in the microwave and wore their tighty-whities on the outside of their jeans. Rules help us get along and avoid hurting ourselves. That’s life.
We’ve all heard the artistic chestnut, “You have to know the rules before you break them.” This philosophy posits that there must be a mastery of craft before artistic inspiration can be fully expressed. To this way of thinking, all those depressing black and white drawings of miners were a necessary prelude to Van Gogh’s explosion into a new dimension of color and perception. For the moment, let’s give it benefit of the doubt for the purposes of discussion.
So there must be rules in fiction. But what rules? Whose rules? Which ones can we break, and which ones are inviolate? Where does inspiration meet technique, and how does commerce—which we grudgingly concede is a necessary factor in being a professional writer—affect the decisions we make about these rules?
I began my career as a playwright, then as a TV network sitcom writer and screenwriter, and most recently, an author. Each of these forms of fiction have their own needs and peculiarities, but one can argue that the basic structural elements hold true for all of them. Inciting incident, rising action, climax, denouement, etc.. Sensing my greenhorn impatience, I was warned by my elders not to go off half-cocked on a project: without technique, I’d get lost. So I diligently studied the structure of plays and screenplays, analyzed them and copied them. And I read all the “How-To” books. (more…)Read More...
Douglas Hulick is the author of AMONG THIEVES, the first book in the Tales of the Kin series, published by Roc/Penguin in 2011. His second book, SWORN IN STEEL, is due out in April, 2012. To date, Douglas’s books have been, or are in the process of being, translated into five different languages, and are also available in the UK and Australia. He currently lives in Minnesota, where it is usually more cold than warm. He has been known to pick up a sword now and then, and even use it on occasion.
I have to admit, it was tempting to step onto the first path I saw when I read the topic for the week on Night Bazaar was “Duos and Ensembles.” After all, even though my first book, Among Thieves, is written from a close first person point of view, there is a classic duo relationship going on between Drothe, the narrator, and his best friend, Bronze Degan. Visions of advice on structuring a duo in the first person, not to mention the challenges one can face, began to unfold before me, a vista of experience and advice and anecdotes stretching over 700 words….
Nope, we’re not going to talk about that today. Instead, we’re going to talk about the one duo that probably shapes my writing more than any other: the relationship between me and my Internal Editor.
Is it bad form to start off saying that, most days, I hate my Internal Editor? (hereafter called IE, because I don’t really need to pad the word count) Not just dislike, mind, or find irritating, or could do without, but actively HATE? Because, yeah, I do. Why? Simple: try as I might, I can’t shut him up. (more…)Read More...