Removing Things

After a great deal of consideration, I’ve decided to remove some of my old posts, especially those darned book reviews. They were important when I wrote them. At the time when I wrote them, I was in perhaps the worst period of my life so far. My parents had divorced suddenly, I’d started college and felt like the perpetual outsider (I still AM the perpetual outsider, but it’s getting easier now to raise a single finger at life and say, “suck it”), and, toward the end, I was in the middle of a major MS attack (which is a disease that eats holes in my brain, turning it into swiss cheese if I’m not careful). I needed something to scream about, to pour my hurt and my anger into, and book reviews were an easy way for me to do it.

Those reviews are caustic.

I don’t particularly want them on my blog anymore.

However, I’ve struggled with the question, “if I remove them, and people know they existed at one time, will it be assumed I’m trying to lie?” I still have that question, but I think it’s better to sever my ties to that awful point in my life rather than leave it there as some kind of symbol of my accountability.

So goodbye old reviews. Goodbye blog posts of stress and anger and hurt. I don’t want to see these anymore. I don’t want people to comment on them anymore. They are gone.

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Posted by on December 19, 2014 in Uncategorized


Mutant Genre-Blending Offspring…Where Do You Go?

Chibi Cthulhu by micer

Image (c) micer

Partly for a class assignment (it was pretty lenient), partly for fun, I wrote a novelette spin-off of my current novel, something I’ve been trying to do for ages (to no avail). Not only is it the first one I’ve been able to complete, it’s also the first one that’s a standalone story that comes to a satisfactory conclusion and requires no prior knowledge of the novel-universe to function.

This issue, however, is where do I send this mutant baby? It’s a(n):

  • 11,000 word novelette (and trust me, there ain’t much of a market for something this long).
  • Is historical (set in Chicago, 1882).
  • Has a mystery plot.
  • I want to call it “urban fantasy,” except, there aren’t too many magazines out there that take UF nowadays and definitely not anything over 5,000 words.
  • Has fantastical elements that, twenty years ago, would’ve gotten it classified as “horror” but it doesn’t fit the modern horror bill.
  • Has blood, murder, throat-cutting, and an ill-tempered, highly-opinionated 500+ year old surgeon as the first-person narrator. Prepare for old geezer snark.

Now I ask: where the hell does this thing go? 

On a different note, funnies! Not only funnies, but editing-related funnies.

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Posted by on December 15, 2014 in Uncategorized


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A Little Theory On Book Length

I have a theory. Or, perhaps, it’s a hypothesis. I’m not a hundred percent sure at the moment.

For awhile, I have been considering book length; more specifically, book length in word count. Google word counts, and inevitably, you’ll find something talking about how a newcomer to the publishing world can’t be published unless they write a book of X-words long or less. Sometimes that’s 100,000, sometimes 95,000 (I had someone inform me that no one will publish a book longer than 76,000, though he wouldn’t cite his source on that). Sometimes, people will say, “it doesn’t matter. Write the book the length it wants to be.” But at the same time, that seems to feed into the Special Snowflake Syndrome that we are oh, so often warned against.

So I started thinking: what was it that makes it okay for a High Fantasy novel to be 120,000 words whereas a Military Science Fiction novel should only brush the 100,000 word mark? Why are Urban Fantasy novels longer that 80,000 words a no-no?

True, there’s a marketing aspect to it and book-binding/cover size one, too, but I wanted to focus more on the question of what caused these word count trends to be trends in the first place.


This image is awesome and beautiful, yet I found in on a website that gives no credit to the artist. If anyone knows who did this one, leave a comment?

While some might argue it’s a world-building thing (that a secondary world Fantasy novel requires more world-building than a Contemporary Fantasy novel), I disagree; just because it takes place in the here-and-now, a novel still needs to build setting, make the location breathe and act almost as another, secondary character, the fantastical elements need to be grounded and explained, and the characters described through action and interaction. In other words, there isn’t that much difference between the two on the craft-level of world-building, which is why I decided to look elsewhere for my explanation.

My initial theory was viewpoint. Since I know more about Urban Fantasy and Fantasy than I do about other markets, I’ll talk about those. Fantasy, say, George R. R. Martin-level of complexity, often has multiple viewpoint characters, all of which need to be built up as believable characters with depth and three-dimensionality to function properly (and not be called cardboard cutouts). Urban Fantasy, on the other hand, is almost exclusively first person, singular viewpoint at this point (with a few exceptions, though that pool is steadily dwindling).

First person gives the you, the writer, the wonderful ability to recognize there is an audience and have the narrator directly address said audience. In a third person, multi-PoV, you have to get clever in order to present information, unless you fall back on what’s usually termed the info-dump or As-You-Know-Bob (the first of which is not inherently a bad thing, though can strain scene-tension and lessen reader immersion; the second one just sounds ridiculous in prose and can totally break reader immersion).

But this only seemed to scratch the surface, and it also didn’t account for those books that broke these unspoken “rules” (for example, Carol Berg’s novels are first person, usually with a single viewpoint character, and secondary world Fantasy; Tanya Huff’s Blood Books are third person with three PoV characters, yet are incredibly slim Urban Fantasy novels). So what was it that added to book length (and it couldn’t be “poor editing” on the writer’s part; sometimes, books are long and to cut out whole sections in order to fit it to a word count, one might end up slashing important plot points that helps the reader understand why point D connects with point E, or perhaps excise an entire viewpoint character’s role in the plot).

Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey

My new theory: time.

The more time the book covers, the more likely it will be longer. If a novel only covers a span of fourteen hours, it will, likely, be short, since the complexity of the plot will be restricted by the time constraint, the number of character interactions will be limited, simply because you can only fit in so much in fourteen hours, and the number of subplots will be small (same reason as point two). However, if the book takes place over the course of fourteen months, it will likely be a whole lot longer. For example, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn is 600+ pages, yet covers the span of months of planning, training, and setup for the eventual final conflict (and I’d argue that it actually covers very little; main plot and two subplots and not much else for the span of time that the novel takes place in). Many Epic Fantasy novels take place over the course of months and the mass-market paperback editions are easily two inches thick because of it, whereas many Urban Fantasy novels take place over the course of a few days, and thus, are shorter.

My theories on book length shall continue in future, no doubt; book length is a topic that eats at my brain quite often, since I tend to write long novels and it’s often pointed out to me that the length is why my writing will, inevitably, never see the light of publication. True, this is self-serving, as I am trying desperately to find out why it is that the novel I’m working on right now is going to end up being 120,000 words long (probably). Why has this occurred? What did I do in the planning stages of the novel that made it be this long? Is this okay? Have I failed in the first leg of the race?

                Any theories of your own as to book length? Why is it that some books beg to be longer than others? And, as a reader, do you judge a book based on its size?

 Helpful Articles on Editing Down A Novel: 

Nine Ways to Shorten a Long Story By Rayne Hall

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Posted by on December 14, 2014 in Uncategorized, Writing


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Questions I Want To Ask

As I sit in my writing courses, trying my damnedest to stay awake and, for all intents and purposes, participating when someone is reading something out loud whipped up in the last five minutes, I sometimes wonder: are you (and I speak of a hypothetical “you,” not “you,” the person reading this, unless you want to be “you”) in love with writing or are you in love with idea of writing?

If you were suddenly struck with the inability to ever express a story again, would the stories keep happening in your head, no matter what even though you could never share them?

If someone offered you a million dollars if you never thought of another story again, could you, honestly, take the money?

I haven’t asked these questions. Honestly, I don’t think I want to know the answer.

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Posted by on December 13, 2014 in Uncategorized


Robbed of Confidence

While trying to find an article somewhere, written some-when, about picking up the pieces of your creative person after having it ripped to bloody ribbons by a college education, I came across this intriguing idea: You don’t simply lose your confidence in yourself and your writing, that it isn’t something that just sort of dissipates on its own accord; it’s taken from you, either by someone or something outside of yourself. If you never have the opportunity to have someone or something take your confidence away, you’ll always have confidence in what you do.

Now, I don’t know if this is true or correct or simply someone’s biased opinion, but it does make a certain sort of sense. When I wrote my first novel, I was totally convinced I was the bomb. I decided to study writing for my college degree a year later. Two years into my degree in creative writing, my walls were starting to thin but I was still convinced that there was something worthwhile about what I created. Skip ahead to the mid-point of my senior year, and I’m utterly convinced that everything I create is nothing more than ash to be scattered to the winds. While I write, I enjoy it, but the second I have to actually give it to someone and market it, the joy leaves my voice and I monotonously drone, unable to muster any energy, so convinced I am that whoever I’m talking to wouldn’t want to read it anyway, so it doesn’t really matter.

I hate this. I hate having gremlins constantly repeating moments in my head. I hate the fact that in class, sometimes, I feel obligated to constantly write the word “silence” over and over again, in a vain attempt to keep myself silent because only in my silence is there something worthwhile to be had.

Perhaps one day soon, I’ll write a letter to my department, explaining what they’ve taken from me by their feedback and the lack of it, by insisting that I somehow have to be “saved” from the shite that I create and only by saving me from that darkness will I ever be clean and a worthwhile creator of writing.


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Posted by on November 27, 2014 in Uncategorized


This Can Only End Badly…tee hee


Ever have one of those moments where you’re watching an argument go down–either in person or an acted one on the screen–and someone says something that you know was going too far? That this situation is going to get so, so much worse because person A said that one thing to person B that pushes their buttons so far, they might just try to kill person A to shut them up? And, secretly, you’re going, “Oooooooh, damn, s/he didn’t!” 

I just got to write one of those and, I admit, I chuckled. That, “Oooo-hoo-hoo, that’s evil” sort of chuckle. And grinned like an idiot because, damn, having character A say that one thing to character B has totally made this scene so delightfully much worse than before. 

I’m an evil writer. Yes, yes I am. Excuse me while I cackle in the corner.  


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Posted by on September 1, 2014 in Uncategorized


Faking It

The_Masquerade_by_amalieThe Masquerade copyright amalie

This year, I volunteered at the Writer’s Symposium at GenCon. Partly, I did it because I was late registering for events/panels which led to me being unable to get tickets for many and this left me with a lot of extra time on my hands and, partly, because I like volunteering and I like meeting writers/authors; they’re fun people to hang out with and I find I learn more from these casual encounters than I do from a traditional workshop or panel setup. And, all right, if I have to, yes, I did volunteer out of the self-serving desire to make my face known. Writing is a small field, comparatively, and SF&F writing is even smaller. I’d prefer people to know me as the helpful volunteer than the submitter asking for publication.

While I was volunteering, a topic kept coming up with a number of professional and hobbyist writers, the idea of being an imposter. The hobbyists didn’t usually have the words to express it (and neither did I, until someone else gave it a label), but what they described was almost exactly like what the professional writers who talked about it did, and is exactly what I’ve been struggling with for awhile now.

This feeling like you’re only pretending, and one day, everyone is going to figure out you’re a fraud and you’ve duped them into thinking you’re a “writer” (or, in the professional field, an “author”). This feeling that, no matter what you do, it will never be good enough, that you’ll fail no matter what you do, so why bother trying in the first place? This feeling like, even if you do succeed, it’s luck, not skill, because that’s all that runs this business, isn’t it? Chance? Luck? Someone in a good mood picking up your manuscript on a good day and thinking, “Yeah, this might have potential, maybe?” And more likely than not, they’ll be in a bad mood on a bad day, read it and think, “This is crap. What fool thought they should submit this?” Right?

I’d been sitting next to a writer in one of the hotel bars (if you know the Indianapolis Convention Center, you know there’s, like, five hotels all connected to the center and a hell of a lot of bars) when I heard, for the first time, a label for this feeling. I’d always thought it was something true to me (oh, self-centered creature I am), that no one else experiences this because no one else is quite the fraud I am. He’d been drinking his second Gin and Tonic, I was still nursing my shot of scotch (some seriously expensive scotch, but it’d been a gift for volunteering, in a roundabout, gift-card way) and he’d confessed to feeling like a fraud. Which made no sense to me. This man is a published author, he’s got books on the shelves, short stories in anthologies, had just submitted his most recent MS to a major SF&F publisher. How could he be a fraud?

And then he went on the describe the same damn feelings that I’ve been fighting against, called them “Imposter Syndrome,” and said that these were common feelings among writers, that a lot of us struggle with feeling like we’re lying to the general populace and, one day, someone will figure it out. Not only that, but we often feel like outsiders, even among our own, because we fear our own will finally notice that we only painted ourselves to fit in with the rest of the “real writers” and are, in fact, lying our asses off.

Masquerade_by_super_sheepToday, I woke up feeling like crap, the little gremlins in my head whispering, “What makes you so special you think you can waste someone else’s time with your words? You’re not anything of worth!” Which is probably why, instead of writing like I’d meant to, editing my first chapter, extending chapter eight, and pushing forward in twelve, I instead spent my day binge-watching City Homicide (which I recommend to anyone looking for another cop drama to fill the hole until regular TV starts airing their new seasons).

Between episodes, I Googled “Imposter Syndrome.” And, oh, how much information I found. Yet, there was nothing about writers struggling with it. Mostly, it was about women in cooperate fields or working toward their degrees to work in cooperate fields, and I did learn that, while it’s not considered a DSM disorder, it was named during the 70’s and it’s recommended by the nameless, faceless people of the internet that people suffering from Imposter Syndrome should talk to a therapist.

Which helped. But didn’t. I mean, it helps to have a label for it, since now I can see it as an enemy I can fight, and know that this isn’t “normal,” but it also isn’t “truth” either, it’s something that my brain made up and drilled into my skull for years. I do wish that there was more information out there for writers suffering from Imposter Syndrome (the only blog I could find on it talked about how the writer got past her Imposter Syndrome when she got her first case of her books, which didn’t really help me work through how I feel now, just give me the promise that, one day, I might not feel like this anymore).

But one of the things that the blog asked was for writers suffering from Imposter Syndrome to talk about it, to share with other writers looking for answers their story, and, through sharing, let them know they’re not alone. Which, I suppose, is why I wrote this. In part, it lets me declare this is a problem I’m struggling with and make it into something concrete I can work against, and in part, if someone else is fighting with Imposter Syndrome (or has struggled with it in the past and moved beyond it), they can share this space with me.

Masquerade copyright Michael Brack.

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Posted by on August 23, 2014 in Uncategorized


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