Category: Writing


TheAmazingSpider-ManI was not looking forward to this film when its marketing push first started. We already had one of these didn’t we? Good ones even.

And the actor playing Spider-Man looked like a goof. Especially his neck. I didn’t like the look of his neck. It was way too long.

Then as we got closer to the release of the movie and more story details crept out my ears perked up and it started sounding more interesting. As Lou Anders pointed out in a tweet there were details about this one that were ineffably right. Peter stayed in High School and had to deal with bullies and being a bully. He lived at home. He had a New York accent. His girlfriend was a blonde Gwen Stacy. He made his own web shooters. The list goes on. The film looked like it was staying far more true to the source material than others had.

Staying true to the source material is, of course, not a recipe for automatic success in a movie. It’s usually a recipe for disaster, books and comic books being so very different from film. But this one worked.

It worked well. I loved this movie. I will own it.

The acting was good. The action was good. The effects were good. It was all good.

Which makes me think about originality. How original can such a film be? Nothing about it was original. Not the story nor the characters nor the concept itself. It was a complete retread.

Yet I loved it. And I did not feel like I was watching something I had seen before.

It’s certainly possible to be unoriginal with something like this. It’s been done. Yet this one worked.

I think I’m starting to understand what Brandon Sanderson means when he says that originality for originality’s sake is vastly overrated.

Whatever you’re doing, do it well, and you’ll be fine.

 

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It’s been too long and I simply must give a shout out to Tangent Online and Joe Giddings for reviewing Armored.

Mr. Giddings liked my story and said as much  in his review , “In my opinion, the best story in the anthology.”

You made my day. Thanks, Joe!

 

The last month has been pretty crazy for me. I spent most of it in Korea doing various mentally and physically strenuous things. Separate post for all of that.

While I was gone the anthology I’m in with Brandon Sanderson hit store shelves. I missed going to a bookstore to see it on opening day, being in the far east, but I was pretty excited nonetheless, showing tweets announcing the event to the guys in the barracks and threatening them with dire bodily harm if they didn’t evince a little more excitement for me. “Yay!”

And, of course, returning home is often not as relaxing and stress free as one imagines it will be, so the first opportunity I had to actually go see ARMORED in the wild was Saturday April 8th. It coincided with a signing Larry Correia and Mike Kupari were doing for there new book DEAD SIX.

Dead SixMike just returned from Afghanistan where he worked as an EOD tech for the Air Force. Welcome home Mike and congratulations on the book!

I stopped to say hi to Mike and Larry and to grab a copy of Dead Six before I hit the shelves to gaze in wonder at my name in print in an actual store. As always Larry was the epitome of benevolence and courtesy. He asked me to grab a copy of Armored for him too so I could sign it for him. My head almost exploded.

The computers said the store had three copies but the very helpful sales associate was only able to locate one at first.  I gave that one to Larry, (Baen sent me two contributor copies earlier) and signed it for him.

While I was scribbling at their table one of Larry’s fans perked up and said, “Hey! I just bought a copy of that book.” Which explained where the second of the three copies the computers thought the store had had gone. I signed that one too.  Missed an opportunity though. I wish I’d had a picture taken with me Brian and Larry, showing off my two very first actual signed-with-a-pen books. Definitely going to remember to do that with my first actual novel.

At about that time the sales associate returned with the third and final copy of Armored, which I bought. Which means that B&N in Sugarhouse is bone dry now. I hope they reorder.

Crimson Pact II also met Paul Genesse the very cool and friendly author of the Iron Dragon series, which I have not yet read but which my sons absolutely love. Paul is notably making an increasingly successful go of the e-book/POD (print on demand) business model with a series of anthologies called THE CRIMSON PACT. I think I may submit to that…

All in all a great first week back. Now to get back in the groove on the novel Brandon and I are doing.

First Fanmail

Armored CoverThis only ever happens once in a writer’s career. The first fanmail arrives and your world changes forever.
Maybe I’m making too big a deal of it. I don’t know. It feels like a big deal to me. There’s someone out there, whom I’ve never met, that likes the story I wrote. Likes it enough to go to the trouble of emailing me to tell me so.
Huge.
The email in question came in on Jan 5 2012. It was short and to the point:

I just finished reading ‘Heuristic Algorithm and Reasoning Response Engine’ in E-arc of Armored and wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed it. Thank you and keep up the good writing. I can’t wait to find more of your work.

He bought the e-arc of Armored from Baen, here:  http://www.baenebooks.com Notice that there are many other e-books from other excellent Baen authors also available.

So, a huge shout out to my first fan, JM.  Thanks dude, I will literally never forget you, creepy as that sounds.

If it makes you feel better I will probably never forget my first hatemail either. There’s no way to tell when it will happen but, given the nature of the internet, it surely will.

I’m kind of excited about that too.

I have voted on them. This is the first year I’ve managed to read a lot of the works up for the awards and thus felt good about judging the categories.

I’m not going to detail some of the categories. Some I will.

I put “Feed” by Mira Grant in the number one slot for Best Novel and I felt her vision, clarity, and sheer pizzazz carried it by a wide margin.  The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin came in second. Not much to say about the others. They were all good books.

I wanted to punch Connie Willis in the face when I got to the end of Blackout, or rather, the non-ending that tailed off that side of the book. But I understand that’s her publisher’s fault for splitting the book at the last minute rather than her own. That’s the rumor I heard anyway. I’ll go with it because punching old ladies in the face isn’t really an option.

For Best Novella I tapped “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window” by Rachel Swirsky because it was awesome, sweeping, and painted so concretely for me that I feel like I was there. Again, all the entries were fine, fine stories, a few nearly as good as Red Flowers.

Best Novelette, went to “That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made” by Eric James Stone because it struck so close to home for me. I can’t truly occupy any viewpoint but my own and Eric sits right next door. The story spoke to me and he’s a brave man for bringing religion into it. Bravo, sir.

Short Story totted up in favor of “For Want of a Nail” by Mary Robinette Kowal  very closely followed by “Ponies” by Kij Johnson. Nail stands on its own, Ponies may take a bit of explaining. It’s one of those stories that could be brushed aside as merely shocking for shock’s sake if it wasn’t so horribly resonant with my own experience of the world. Let us not be the bully ponies in our own lives…

Big fan of Writing Excuses and Schlock Mercenary, no surprise there.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form I gave to Inception, followed by Toy Story 3. I put Scott Pilgrim at the bottom because I wasn’t equipped to appreciate it. I’ve never lived the shallow bachelor life, sometimes to my regret but not very often, and the characters all fell flat for me for, probably, that reason.

I voted on a couple other categories  but my reasons are shady and kind of blurry so we’ll leave those alone.

Best new Writer? I’m friends with two of the nominees so I’m not saying who took 1 and who took 2. One of them is liable to shoot me from more than 300 yards out and the other just might bury me alive in his backyard. I don’t need that kind of pressure.

Next stop Worldcon! Kind of…

Well, it definitely did not go to hell. I liked this book.

Everything I liked about it in the first 8 chapters: Hard SF sensibilities, a cool central premise, the fast moving short story pace, were maintained for the entire novel. All good. Highly recommended.

And in other news, Eric James Stone’s story “That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made” has been nominated for a Hugo award in the “Best Novelette” category. Huge congratulations, Eric!

I haven’t finished this book yet, so be warned that it may go completely to hell before I get there. I don’t think it’s likely but I’ll let you know either way. So far though, (I’m up to Chapter 8.) it’s a rocking good time with hard SF sensibilities striking sparks off of a whimsical  and amusing central premise.

Also, in the interests of full disclosure, Eric James Stone, the author, is my friend. I like his stuff in spite of that though, and I don’t think I’m in the minority.

Unforgettable

I’m a pretty straightforward guy. I say that with a little bit of my tongue in my cheek because I’m a fairly accomplished liar. Working for years in the intelligence community will do that for you. It’s definitely a learned skill though, not one that I was born with.

Author’s are accomplished liars. That statement is true on many levels. Fictioneers get paid to make stuff up that is patently not true. Lying, making up stories, is what we do, by definition. At the same time, everyone knows it’s all lies so we’re not deceiving anyone.

But authors are liars in another sense too. We deliberately mislead and deceive our readers. Lately, I’ve been thinking of this as ‘operating behind the curtain.’ And I’ve been thinking about it because I am not comfortable operating behind the curtain yet, as an author.

There’s something in me that feels that if I know it, the reader should know it. I think it comes from being a reader for so long that I naturally occupy the reader headspace. In the reader headspace the reader must know at least as much as the characters know, usually more, or the story feels false and contrived. An author who lets his characters know something that the reader doesn’t and uses that to build tension or mystery is breaking the agreement that I, as a reader, expect him to adhere to. I hate it when authors do it and I really don’t want to do it as an author. It leads me to feel that if I, the author, know it, the reader should know it. But that’s obviously ridiculous when I say it out loud like that.

This gets particularly silly when I feel that I should be surprised, as a reader would be, by my own stories. It’s not something I do consciously, but I’ve started to identify this tendency in myself as an author. Heck, looking back, it makes it obvious why I didn’t know how my first novel was going to end until I was actually faced with writing the last few chapters. Discovering this about myself is good in a ‘knowing is half the battle’ kind of way, but also bad in that it’s a problem I have, since it binds my hands as an author.

Intellectually I know that an author manipulates his readers through misdirection and manipulation but I’ve been having trouble doing it. I daresay Tolkien knew Gandalf wasn’t really dead, or at least that he would come back, long before he wrote that bit. Operating behind the curtain, keeping secrets from the reader, is something I have been unconsciously avoiding when, as an author, I should be embracing it.

As I say, now that I can see what I’ve been doing I can fix it. Heck, I can turn it into a strength. I thought it was interesting, though, that I had the trouble in the first place, considering how much I lie.

SGU-ShowImageI really got into this series during its first season. I heard about it because Scalzi talked about it on the whatever, and how he’s a creative consultant for the show. What an awesome gig.

I watch it entirely on Hulu, and loved the first season. Second season is shaping up to be just as cool and well done. One thing about this episode though, bugged me a little.

Massive spoiler. If you haven’t seen the episode yet, do not read on.

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Monster Hunter Vendetta

Monster Hunter VendettaThe Monster Hunter series is a bit of a phenom in my book. Larry Correia, the author, self-published the first installment, Monster Hunter International. Due to his connections in the world of guns and shooting instruction and general firearms badassery, as well as it being an awesome fun read, it sold a few thousand copies. He got picked up by Baen and now the sequel is out. Monster Hunter Vendetta.

I saw Larry the other day at authorpalooza in a Barnes & Noble. Still a really nice guy and fun to talk to. I bought MHV, had him sign it and I’m halfway through it now. Just as fun, irreverent, and mile-a-minute as the first one.

But the cover quote. It’s a little odd. “Fast-paced action sequences and ultra-accurate firearms details.” Ultra-accurate firearms details?

It’s true enough. Larry is a master of his trade. His firearms details are ultra-accurate. But the book has a much broader appeal than that. No doubt readers of Gun World, where the author of that quote, Jerry Ahern, writes appreciate ultra-accurate firearms details more than most but…the books have so much more as well.

The books have cool twists and emotional depth and really good pacing and nifty ideas. They’re just plain fun to read.

Edit: So, I just finished reading MHV. So cool. Not a wasted paragraph. The end is as epically awesome as the first and the ride there as thrilling and fast paced as anything I’ve ever read. An absolute blast.