How’s everyone doing?

Since April, my sons have started high school band (they integrate the 8th graders in at the end of the year), my daughter has graduated high school, and the house is all in a flurry because she’s getting married next month.

It’s bittersweet to be losing a daughter (yet gaining a son, so to speak), but they seem to love each other, and she’s continuing with her education. So I’m pleased about it.

I’ve been working on the garden (which has really perked up this year), taking care of home and rabbits, driving kids places, and working on the Think Sideways class. I’m a bit behind, but learning A LOT.

Each class builds on the one before it, so it’s a bit difficult to explain, but the homework for this lesson is to split your planned story into scenes then write a one-sentence blurb for each scene. For example, the Council of Elrond in Lord of the Rings could be summed up this way:

The Council of Elrond meets, and after much controversy, appoints Frodo and eight others to go to Mount Doom and destroy the Ring.

As you can imagine, this homework is taking me a while to do. But it’s a great way to get a handle on the book before you write it. I had an idea of where I wanted the story to start then realized that I really needed to start the story a few scenes earlier. Also, doing this has shown me where I need to do research (anyone know how to sail?) and where the logic holes in my plot are. All this before I spend weeks writing this thing.

So I’m very happy about the class.

What have you been up to? Anything good going on the rest of us need to know about?


Critiquing is the way to learn to edit.

This is what I’m learning right now.

I’m doing a critique right now of an epic fantasy (with the associated epic length). Every time I critique a novel, I learn something new, and today several things that were rolling around inside my head came together.

A novel has a heart, a core truth that the rest of the story hangs on, that every part of the novel relates to, focuses the energy of the story towards. You might call it the theme, but it might not be related to the theme. The heart of Lord of the Rings, for example, isn’t really related to the Good Triumphs Evil theme, rather to the truth that you can’t go home again, that change changes everything, including you. Neither Frodo nor Bilbo nor the Elves nor the Orcs nor even Aragorn could return to the lives they once led, as much as they wished to.

Your job as an editor/critiquer (should you choose to accept it) is to find the heart of the story in front of you. Like JRR Tolkien showed us examples of how each character in his trilogy couldn’t go home again, couldn’t take up like what happened hadn’t changed him or her, everything in your story should circle around its heart, like planets in a solar system circle the sun.

Been real busy lately, what with school coming to a close and the garden ramping up. It’s satisfying to be able to literally put food on the table (that you grew yourself).

I got a rejection on “Kythera”, and sent it out again. Been doing an interesting class on FM, studying openings to novels and having the others in the class analyze your own.

Also working on a fantasy novel crit for a friend. Put up “Heart of a Demon” for crit on this new short story crit circle I joined, also on FM. Love that place.

Anywho, that’s what’s been happening here. What’s up with you?

My next project. I’d like to start in on April1st … a few days away.

What sounds better?

  • Freedom, part 3, which I have a partial outline for.
  • Clan Twelve, part 2 (aka Diary of a Monster), for which I have a subplot but nothing else.
  • edit People of the Earth (fairly straightforward, but feels difficult right now)
  • edit Test of Time (need to analyze this first but I like the idea)
  • finish a children’s SF story I started last year, called “The Adventures of Achilles Thornbottom”.
  • time for something completely different …

Inspired by Claire’s post, here’s my top ten novels. Not my ten favorite (although many of these are), but ten that showed me what a novel could be.

In no particular order:

  1. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons. This series is both deeply disturbing and (at the end) tremendously inspirational, not to mention producing the coolest (and the most terrible) means of FTL travel ever seen in SF. I hope someday to write even a fraction as well as he does.
  2. The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien. Many find these books (especially the latter) dry, but the depth and quality of storytelling in these works (really, one huge story) is unequaled in literature. The hobbit in me loves genealogies, too.
  3. Dune, by Frank Herbert. While I like the whole series (especially God Emperor of Dune), the first in the series is a masterpiece of weaving multiple storylines and points of view(in deep omniscent) so seamlessly that you never realize what he’s doing unless you make yourself focus on it.
  4. Faith of the Fallen, by Terry Goodkind (In the Sword of Truth series). Now, many people don’t like this series, because it’s violent, dark, and some say misogynistic. But Faith of the Fallen is flat-out inspiring. The best and the worst of human nature, and how one man, just by being himself, changes an entire city for the better.
  5. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson. Such brilliant writing that you never notice he’s in third person present the entire time! He foresees Google Earth, VR, and a pay-the-author eBay-style version of Wikipedia long before any of those come to pass. And it’s a hell of a fun book from page one. Where else can you get a pizza-delivery hacker wielding dual katanas, a murderous harpoonist with a nuke strapped to his sidecar, and a balkanized Southern California, all in one story?
  6. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. Not just a book for chicks. I had to read this in high school, and if you didn’t get to, you should. This gal overcomes things that flatten the people around her, without dipping into pathos or making her a stereotype. Not easy, considering it was written in the 1800’s. Mystery, moral dilemmas, and gritty reality in the Dickens tradition. One of the classics for a good reason.
  7. Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Psychological intrigue at its finest. Another classic.
  8. The Gap Series, by Stephen R. Donaldson. A dark, claustrophobic series (most of it takes place in space), where alliances shift from chapter to chapter and the reader constantly wonders if they’re getting (as the first book is called) The Real Story. The author has created main characters you care for in spite of the fact that they are not ‘good people’, and the creepiest, the most cold-blooded and fear-inspiring alien race I’ve ever seen.
  9. A Song of Ice and Fire, by George RR Martin. A gritty, sprawling epic fantasy, that works in spite of a multitude of POV characters on three continents, just about all who are plotting against each other. The story itself is about an entire civilization coming apart right at the worst possible time (it just occurred to me that the timing of publication might be apt). Complex, real, and filled with deeply flawed people, some of whom are doing the best they can.
  10. Tunnel in the Sky, by Robert Heinlein. The first SF book I read as a middle school student, which hooked me on SF forever.

I figured this out.

Double Cross is erotic SF. There is a market for erotic SF!

People of the Earth may or may not be YA Fantasy (I’m concerned what Rinai and Matti go through might be too much, making it Fantasy about YA’s rather than YA Fantasy, the way Ender’s Game was originally marketed to adults), but it’s certainly my best novel yet. Other than some backstory that needs adding in midway through and the obligatory removal of ‘was’ (my secret vice while writing first drafts), it’s about ready to send to my critters.


The top 10 underreported stories of 2007

The question is: why were these stories underreported? There’s a story in there, I can feel it.

In other news, I’m over my writers’ block. Well, my editing block, anyway. I’ve gone back to working on The Tachyon People, and I’d like to take a look at The People of the Earth this week as well.

With all the news lately, I think SF is circling the drain. The chances of us getting a person to Mars, a colony on the Moon, Star Trek, etc., are becoming so small with the way we’ve wasted the resources of this planet that SF is more like fantasy than real science. Perhaps I’m still in a bit of a funk, but I fail to see the point of writing SF until there’s an actual chance that what I write could happen.

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