Friday, November 26, 2010

Why Every Beginning Writer Should Study Horror

Lately I've been listening to podcasts. I listen to all three sister podcasts in the Escape Artists family: Podcastle for Fantasy, Escape Pod for Science Fiction, and PseudoPod for Horror.

Now, I don't particularly like Horror as a genre. I don't watch Horror movies, I don't read Stephen King or any of the horror greats much, and honestly, there are over 30 stories from Pseudopod on my iphone at the time of this writing that I haven't gotten around to listening to yet.

So, why am I telling you, a beginning writer, to study Horror?

Fiction is about having an effect on the reader. The effect is different for each genre and subgenre, and even varies by scene in longer works, but there's always an effect that the writer is trying to achieve.

When you are studying painting, you look at both the overall balance of the composition and the effects of the individual brushstrokes. You can do the same thing with writing. In Horror, the brushstrokes are very clear. Thus, a beginning writer can learn a lot from studying them.

Take, for example, Pseudopod 165: The Copse, by Robert Mammone, read by Ian Stuart. It's a relatively simple story about a family going to dinner someplace -- well, someplace bad.

To a writer's ear, this is no subtle piece. To use a musical metaphor, this is more akin to Wagner's great brass fanfares than Mozart's clever interplay of cascading notes. But "The Copse" works, and that's the point.

Pay close attention to the use of descriptive details, the symbols repeated, the visceral responses of the characters. This is Horror.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The meaning of "AND"

One pet peeve I have in writing is when people try to impose rules on the language that are not actually in the language, and (d1) pretend that they are.
Take, for instance, the meaning of "and".

Sometimes "AND" does mean simultaneity; sometimes it doesn't. And (d1) sometimes an editor or writer's group will hallucinate a pseudo-linguistic rule that has no basis in the language. Please note that those three cases do NOT necessarily happen at the same time. In this case they aren't related by anything but the point I'm trying to make.

Try and (d5) understand the point. (definition 5 means "in order to").

Neither Webster's nor the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) indicate that the word "AND" *always* means simultaneity. The primary meaning (d1) in Webster's Unabridged (1977 Encyclopedic version) is "also". The derivation in Webster's indicates that the original meaning was "thereupon, then, next". And (d1) there are several column inches of different definitions in the OED.

So I'm going to post this post and (d3) get to printing today's stories. That's two things I'm going to do, listed together, and you might think by definition 1 the word "and" indicates that they are linked or grouped in some way. Not necessarily by happening at the same time. Perhaps they are happening in a short sequence. Or perhaps they are related in theme. Or perhaps, as in this case, one is causing the other or enabling the other, which is definition 3. In which case, they could not possibly be simultaneous.

It's as easy as adding two and (d2) two.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Spider Man Swing

Okay, had to post this as soon as I saw it linked from the Tor Website. Sheer fun, to offset the sad news of legendary artist Frank Frazetta's passing. The barbarian has left the gates.

But, take a look overhead... or, underhead... or something...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Genius Girl Approaching Finale?

I'm getting goose bumps... which is a good thing.

It looks like Girl Genius ... Steampunk - er Gaslight Fantasy - Graphic Novels at their best... is approaching its series finale. I'm getting that impression because lots and lots of minor characters and major characters and love interests and plot devices are all showing up for a final showdown beneath the ruins of an insane castle, and, well, doesn't that sound like a finale?

Really, I wouldn't be surprised if they all joined in a chorus line and sang, "There's no business like show business..."

It's that kind of a comic: Adventure... Romance... Mad Science! And the occasional alternate universe chorus number.

Oh, poop. Speaking of chorus numbers, that montage I made, above right, really should contain at least one Jagermonster with a bit hat, but they haven't appeared in a few pages. Darn.

Okay, here's one from last year.

"Nize hat!!!!"

NOTE: Original images copyright 2008-2010 Studio Foglio LLC. Homage montage belongs to them too, even if I made it.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Online Publicity

Lindsay Robertson posts about the Do's and Don'ts of Online Publicity

Robertson is apparently in an eco-zone of the Internet where news that's more than an hour old is considered archaic-- she serves as a feeder-of-new-news toward the top tier, thus won't post older information that might waste the top tier's time -- so take her ideas from that point of view.

She suggests that a publicist should study a small number of mid-tier blogs and send them information closely tailored to their needs and wants, and send that information within minutes of its being public.

Hat tip, Dystel & Goderich Literary Agency.

It's Alive! ?

There's a rumour out there that Kirkus might arise from the dead.

Dystel and Goderich

points to

Agent Kristin at Pub Rants

who points to

Publisher's Weekly

on the subject.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Honest, but Bad

Cats Make Bad Agents. Honest, but bad.

From Bad Agent Sydney T Cat:

If it isn't original, I am not interested.

If it is original, it is different.

If it is different, I cannot sell it.

If I cannot sell it, I am not interested."

That's the entire post, so go here to look at his entire blog.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Et Tu, Hitler?

Huffington Post Video here under the auspicious title "Hitler Finds out Scott Brown won Massachusetts". Hilarious, no matter which side of the purple you live on.

Rosemary Wins Again!

Rosemary Clement Moore made the ALA/YALSA "2010 Best Books for Young Adults".

The list of 90 books, drawn from 203 official nominations, is presented annually at the ALA Midwinter Meeting. The books, recommended for those ages 12-18, meet the criteria of both good quality literature and appealing reading for teens. The list comprises a wide range of genres and styles, including contemporary realistic fiction that reflects the diversity of the teen experience, nonfiction that brings to teens an awareness of the world they live in and its history, and fantastical stories told in both narrative and graphic formats.

I loved that book. Go read it.

Hat tip, Varkat.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

One Man's Eye Candy...

The movie Avatar is having some interesting effects in China, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.

Private property is one of the most sensitive issues in the country today, and "Avatar" has given the resisters a shot in the arm.

Read it.

Hat tip, James Taranto, Best of the Web.

Also over at the journal, this article that says,
But Harvard's Mr. Katz warns that past experience suggests such conjecture [about future economic performance and job recovery] is likely fruitless. "One thing we've learned is that when we attempt to forecast jobs 10 or 15 years out, we don't even get the categories right," he says.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Extreme Winter Caused by American space beam from Norway

Pakistan Daily Reports that

Russian scientists are reporting to Prime Minister Putin today that the high-energy beam fired into the upper heavens from the United States High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) radar facility in Ramfjordmoen, Norway this past month has resulted in a “catastrophic puncturing” of our Plant’s [sic] thermosphere thus allowing into the troposphere an “unimpeded thermal inversion” of the exosphere, which is the outermost layer of Earth’s atmosphere.

If true, then global warming is solved!

On the other hand, this might just be a leak of the plot of the next Dan Brown novel.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

And then?

There's a whole bunch of people who write professionally who get tied up in rules about words. One editorial fad that an editor friend of mine seems to have fallen into is the idea that "and", used as a conjunction between independent clauses, means that the two clauses must occur simultaneously.

She starts by accepting this arbitrary rule that someone hallucinated, then writes a sentence like:

Joe opened the door and walked out into the hall.

She then says that sentence is wrong because Joe didn't open and walk at the same time.

Well I'm here to say that "and" doesn't always mean simultaneity. In plain American English, as it is used by humans, "and" can mean sequence just as well as it can mean simultaneous action.

When I say, "I ate dinner and dessert", do I have to mean that every bite of dinner was mixed with a bite of dessert? Not on my planet.

When I say, "I drove to the store and bought a gallon of milk", do I have to mean that the milk was bought during the drive? Obviously not.

Changing that conjunction from "and" to "and then" may be more specific, but it results in an extra word.
  • On the one hand, if you have "then", which is called a "conjunctive adverb" when performing that function, you don't need "and" - "and" is completely optional. (If present the word "and" demotes the word "then" to a plain adverb.)
  • On the other hand, unless the reader has a reason to believe that Joe can walk through closed doors, then the sequence obviously follows from the order of the sentence, and "then" is unneeded.

  • Purists, like Uncle Jim over at Absolute Write, say that "and then" is never correct, because at least one word is excess. This comes from the journalism school of writing, where every word must be savagely assassinated if possible because you have to pay for telegrams by the character. Did I mention it's an old rule? Then Uncle Jim unfortunately perpetrates the same "the word 'and' means only what I say it means" line of manure.

    I say, all three constructions obviously mean the same thing in English. Use whichever one sounds the best in context of your story.

    Final statement: the rule is only necessary where (1) there might be confusion about whether the actions in the sentence happen at the same time, and where (2) that confusion matters to the story or the reader. If those two are both the case, you can save two words by using a punctuations mark: a period.

    (Use semicolon only if you are an expert.)

    Roundups and Whatnot

    Okay, I haven't posted in ages, so this is just a roundup that doesn't even tell you about my brand new grinch pajamas or the fact that I now weigh the lowest weight since my marriage (12 years!)... okay, I lied, you have been told about those cool things. Maybe I'll post a pic later.

    Here's a roundup of five years of author J.A. Konrath's blog.

    Here's an article from Strange Attractor about crowdsourcing application Ushahidi.

    Here's the awesome cover for the Russian version of author Aprilynne Pike's Wings. It is so hot! And something more important, Aprilynne's descriptions of chocolate making! Yum.

    And, I can't post them yet, but I've received the artwork that will be printed with my two new short stories, one in Abandoned Towers magazine and one with my next Billy Steadman story in the new silly western anthology due out in 2010 by Cyberwizard Productions.

    There. At least my feet are wet for the new year. Maybe more tomorrow.