It occurred to me as i read this list that a lot of these simply don't occur to some of the writers who submit stuff to me, or sadly to one or two of the things I've seen in print. Some of the high points of the list:

2. Anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice. Ammunition is cheap - life is expensive. If you shoot inside, buckshot is your friend. A new wall is cheap - funerals are expensive

This one translates well into: Never believe something, know it. In other words: Overkill is just right. An enemy that has been sawn in half by your; gun fire, laser fire, magic, animal tusks or sword is probably not going to come after you again.

4. If your shooting stance is good, you're probably not moving fast enough or using cover correctly.

This one has two major forks to its point for writers, and those unfamiliar with guns:

  1. If your enemy is moving at your slowly enough, and without any ranged weapons, that you can get into the picture perfect stance seen in target competitions and bad movies, it is either a) not very dangerous or b) it's confident enough that you should be taking the time to run away.
  2. Standing in that wonderful range posture makes you a delightful target for anyone (the enemy you see or the one(s) you don't.
10. Someday someone may kill you with your own gun, but they should have to beat you to death with it because it is empty.

While blowing away all your ammo in the first five seconds isn't great tactics either, waiting for the perfect shot you have to be realistic and think of the possibility of losing your gun. This is most important if you or your character is small, weak, hurt, or your enemy is that strong.

16. Don't drop your guard.

This seems to be what makes the plot in horror movies (what little there is) work, but you can rarely get away with it in good books.

20. The faster you finish the fight, the less shot you will get.

Obviously this applies to all weapons, and magic, and hand to hand as well.

24. Do not attend a gunfight with a handgun, the caliber of which does not start with anything smaller than "4".

While the "caliber wars" will rage eternal, you'll note that many police departments carry .40 or .45, some will go with a 9mm simply because it moves faster and in theory has both takedown power and leaves the chance of survival for the person hit.

27. Regardless of whether justified of not, you will feel sad about killing another human being. It is better to be sad than to be room temperature.

The second sentence of this one is rather more important than the first. I hope I never have to kill anyone, but if the choice is me and mine or some schmuck that has actually made me want to kill them, it'd be unwise to bet on me feeling too bad about surviving.

If so, revising may be a good idea.

Thank you Darius.

This video reminded me of some of the stories I've seen that have rather sharply juxtaposed elements, some working well, some working horribly most working for only a very small slice of the market. I suspect this video falls into one of the latter to categories.

Thanks Mel

onyxhawke: (Default)
( Jan. 5th, 2009 01:43 pm)
Perhaps the most interesting balancing act in the world is that of balancing the world's view of you as articulated in nuance, deed, and word by those around you and your own view of self. Sometimes, the world has a more accurate view of you than you yourself can claim, or will admit to. Sometimes the world, or at least a vocal portion has a view of you that just defies logical interpretation, history and observed current events. In entertainment we often see this angle worked for good laughs or to teach a moral. In philosophy it is sometimes used to make a case for something many would consider indefensible, simply to remind observers that it is not usually possible to know how others think, even if you know what they think. Some segments of the field of psychology state that perception is reality and that even the appearance of agreement between multiple parties perceptions does not prove that a thing is objectively real, simply that the individuals involved perceive an agreement.

For the purposes of fiction, when all the points of view on a given thing, person or event are the same it is usually not worth repeating it over and over from each point of view as often happens in real life. But bringing out the different perceptions about something are often as revealing about the point of view character as they are about whatever is being described through their mind. I found this article and more importantly the map inspirational for this piece, which while it says something about me that I find it mostly laughable says tons about the mind behind the map, and his supporters.

Thanks to [ profile] mzmadmike for pointing me at this posts catalyst.

The human mind is capable of doing amazing things. When you think of if, it's rather amazing we haven't made more technological advances. The first airplane was designed without the aid of computers, and the general principles of aerodynamics are not much changed since that time. Someone decided that the funny stuff growing in a petri dish might make a real good medicine, and it has. Both of these were the results of specialized thinking. General thinking though is what has lead to the far ranging works of Leonardo da Vinci and his contributions not just to art, but to engineering, mathematics, botany and more. Ben Franklin was another generalist contributing in social and physical sciences.
cut for length and pics ).
While Science Fiction and Fantasy have helped lead the way to some extraordinary things in our world, there are some things that just shouldn't be. Hopefully a few people will take this topic and run with it as I shall quite lazily point out only the simplest and most obvious things being the shiftless and not to bright person that i am.

Perhaps the greatest evil for which the world has Science Fiction, one author and a nearly invisible editor to thank is "cyber bullying". Long before most people could even hazard a guess at what "cyber" meant. Before people had screennames, and instant messengers, and email. Before the world wide web was all that wide, or a world of its own a man created a way of reaching out and hurting ones enemies in a way that few would realize the would be the new wedgie, His proxy a boy called Ender (a use name) humiliated his opponent in a way that let him cause trouble and get away with it. Today we write new laws to deal with the technology that enables this crime, and continue to handwring at the crime itself. Orson Scott Card has much to answer for.

Death Shouldn't Find Me!

This is a trope that abounds in both Science Fiction and Fantasy. I can't blame either genre for creating it, just for perpetuating it. Raymond E Feist should shoulder his share of this simply for the early Midkemia books. Not only is the book littered with glamorous, graceful and ageless Elves two of the main characters from Magician become effectively immortal. Pug and Thomas go from keep rascals to not just towering heros, but unaging towering heros. Truly unfair.

Science fiction can't leave not dying alone either. In science fiction not only have anti-aging techniques like Weber's attempts to drive the entire future of mankind nuts by extending both puberty and menopause with his prolong treatment. Honestly, this one should really be considered cruel and unusual punishment. I can't honestly imagine people developing healthily mentally when they spend from eleven to thirty-nine looking unfinished, gangling and wondering when people are gonna stop calling them the Honorverse equivalent of "pizza face".

Lois Bujold is not without blame for perpetuating this bit of cultural denial. She's invented two totally different ways of not aging like a normal human. Her Betans (almost all of whom seem to be like 'the good kids" in A Brave New World) simply don't age. They don't age because they just live right, and their doctors have a pill for that. Simply disgusting. Not to out do this she has tweaked an entire twelve planet society with the use of trickle down genetics. They are smart, beautiful, healthy, resistant to poisons and yup, long lived. Utterly vulgar.

Then of course there are the weapons of play war where people almost play for keeps. Stunner, cryo-revival, shock nets, knockout gas, and virtual reality combat. What type of sissyness is this? This doesn't provide any reason for the other side to stop being your enemy. And how the hell do you establish discipline in a war where the greatest danger is ripping and dirtying your uniform when the enemy reasonable-wonderful-valuable-unique-beautiful-caring-person-who-we-have-yet-to-reach-a
-reasonable-accord-with-through-no-fault-of-anyone stuns you. Oh no! What if their pain killers don't work as fast as our or they don't taste as good! Heaven Whatevereachreaderbelievesornotbelivesinwithoutpreferenceorjudgementwithfullsupportandornonsupportas itbestvalidatesthatreaderatthisoranyothermomentinwhatwenowcalltime forfend! 

Kill Something Bitches! Really, it's one of the few things that humans are actually good at finding new ways to do. Death and sex. These are the two things that most people wonder about first when contemplating a new technologies possible applications.
onyxhawke: (Default)
( Oct. 28th, 2008 06:12 pm)
I really do wonder how it is that I, or any agent or editor is expected to believe that some people believe they deserve to be read when they can't even put the energy into finding out the basics of submission. Never mind following all of them in their varied and sometimes insane variations.
Just learning them. There are some that there is no excuse for missing. They aren't hard. They don't require much effort. They don't even require you to learn how to program computers. It's just clicking a few icons in your word processor.

Somethings everyone should look into when preparing a manuscript for submission:
  • Page numbering
  • Margin width
  • Standard Fonts
  • Title Page
  • Header content
  • font size
Those are the basics. Honestly. If you can't get these close enough to violate a sexual harassment policy just give up. Really, if you can't figure these out you don't have the ability to understand the written language well enough to produce anything viable with it.

Cover letters are a separate art, writing a good novel is another separate art. Damn near anyone can string together 80,000 to 160,000 words and call it a novel. It might or might not be good. Sturgeon who was an unrepentant fluffy bunny optimist in my book was wrong or lived a charmed life. But even if you can't write a novel that even a 100 people would enjoy reading, you aren't alone. Not to mention it takes longer to type 1000 words than it does to figure out how to format them. It takes less time to format them properly than it does to find them. So quite frankly there really is no excuse for failing to do so. Arrogance and laziness are not valid reasons, nor is ignorance.

Really, if you can't reason well enough to know how to do simple things, how in the world do you expect anyone to believe you can write believable characters, craft a plot that is well executed, write dialog that is effective, and use description like a scalpel and not an bulldozer? This is like expecting someone who fails their drivers license test twelve times to be able to safely pilot a fighter jet.

The big mistakes that sink a book are not nearly as interesting to me as the little ones that can tip the balance either way. One of the little things that always leaves me bemused is how people in stories go straight from summer into winter without more than a passing mention of fall. While its true that New England and other places sometimes feel that way, as a rule it just isn't true. The pictures below were taken in the last day or two, and at this time of year we have those lovely thirty to forty degree temperature swings that make sweatshirts appropriate at morning and eve, and short sleeves comfortable the rest of the day. The area I live in is march and hills, and more marsh mixed with occasional lands decent for farming.

I find it curious how often I see this in fiction. Nothing seems to happen in the fall in books. The weather is boring if discussed at all, and it rarely fits the climate area that is supposed to be right for the place. Travelers will head north, and about four weeks after they leave someplace temperate they are immediately buried to the horsebelly in snow. No changing leaves, no animals shedding, no birds migrating, not a hint of fall dew, nary a mention of frost, just one to another.

So for those of you who live in places without real weather:

marsh mixed foliage

wide mixed folaige, marsh slight hill

tight view of marsh mostly colored

elevated view, water tower

onyxhawke: (Default)
( Sep. 27th, 2008 06:45 pm)

I had two panels today, one with Stoney Compton, and a couple others whose names escape me. And another that I'll cover later.

This is a video of some of the performers from last night.

Special note for the people who were annoyed at the performers. I am much meaner than they are.

Oh yes, i spoke to the con chair for Lunacon things will be moving on that site soon. Dave Freer, the GoH for Lunacon has two  books coming out you probably know about. One is the paperback of Pyramid Power . The other is the hardcover release of Slow Train.

For those were at the Writers Group panel, here's the link to the writers checklist i did last summer and was talking about.

onyxhawke: (Default)
( Jul. 18th, 2008 03:44 pm)
“Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs. The adjective hasn't been built that can pull a weak or inaccurate noun out of a tight place.”
William Strunk
onyxhawke: (Default)


( Jul. 8th, 2008 12:10 am)
This is the best post on writing I've read in a while. Go read.
edited to fix link
onyxhawke: (Default)
( Jul. 7th, 2008 12:38 pm)
Write me a cover letter. Write me a really, really bad cover letter. Just make it plausible, and post it in a few days when I put up notice. Winner  as chosen by be (in the US and Canada only) will get a free paperback copy of any of Dave Freer's books written solo or in collaboration. All entries will be used on my LJ and other places as an example of how not too. Simply post the cover letter in comments and you're entered. Contest open to all adults and children with parental permission. 
onyxhawke: (Default)
( Jun. 25th, 2008 08:31 pm)
I think I've complained enough times about abuse of the written word that its time to recommend a couple things to Stop the Insanity!*. I know that a couple colleges use The Brief Penguin Handbook, of which their are several edition and some of them have some e-learning tools included. One college I know uses it exclusively for all classes. More than one of my friends recommend the Strunk and White tome, The Elements of Style. I've never used The Elements of Style, but I do trust those who recommend it. You can possibly find both of them used.

*Apologies to Susan Powter, all English teachers, and those who just had a flashback at the mention of the name.
Really, its true. One of the things many, many writers don't grok about the business is that no agent, editor, or publisher that is not going to have you as the primary source of cash for a book is looking for a reason to publish your book. One more time. I am not,  neither are Night Shade, Baen, Tor, Ace, Harper Collins, Pyr or any other publisher worth a damn does not want a reason to get your book published. Every single agent, editor, and bean counter is looking for a reason not to publish your book. One of the things everyone is looking for is someone who will not be a nightmare to work with. By this I mean that everyone wants to work with the clue enabled. Yes this is an unfairly high standard since most of us don't hold elected officials to this same standard. None of us mind if you are a little or even a lot ah, blessed by unique thought patterns and mental constructs. We just don't want to see them anywhere except in your book. So please for the love of booze and good books, keep your crazy at home and don't send it out with our manuscript. Doing your cover letter in the fictional language of your world is not helpful, even if you provide a dictionary for easy translation. A query letter that is all done up with email stationary that moves and sparkle with with lavender font over a lilac background is a bit unappealing as well. And yes, obvious as it seems as a way to give your prospective agent or editor a leg up on getting to know your world if your query letter is done in character it will probably earn a brisk dismissal.
onyxhawke: (Default)
( Jun. 8th, 2008 04:40 pm)

Warning. Post contains spoilers for several series. Including, David Weber's Honor Harrington series, Lois Bujold's Five Gods, C. E. Murphy's Walking Papers series, Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, the Tails of the Moon series by Dave Freer and Eric Flint and Irene Radford's Dragon Nimbus. You are warned.


P.S. Thanks Kate.

Talk of sex, stereotypes, and worse truth below.

Feel free to explain this one to me. I'm dying to hear it.

* Anyone who knows the original quote and quoted person please let me know.
onyxhawke: (Default)
( May. 28th, 2008 11:14 pm)
Verb conjugation is apparently a dying skill. I've had more than one manuscript in the past few dozen that seem to lack this basic skill. Maybe it is too much for me to expect that people who want to be published should be able to know what tense of a verb to use, if so please tell me. But I can't escape the sneaking suspicion that some of these people just don't care enough about their work to finish it instead of merely writing to the end. Sure they care enough to collect words in a string until they have something they construe as a story, possibly over the objections of first readers. What gets me is that a careful reading by the writer would probably catch these things and save them from killing the chances of an agent or editor accepting the book. Grammar is in my opinion the one fundamental of writing good fiction that really is teachable to almost everyone.

I don't think that plotting is really something that everyone can learn. Most people yes. But its a skill that escapes many a story teller who none the less displays good grammar and and decent character building.
Character creation I think is probably the hardest skill to develop, and world building being something that most people don't apply anything like moderation too. It's either vast quantities of information that doesn't advance the plot, build the character(s), or otherwise draw the reader to care about the book or the equivalent of talking heads in space or with swords (sometimes both).

Seriously, for the grammatically challenged there is help, most libraries will have some level of English text book that teaches the hows and whens.

It occurred to me the other night while talking to someone moving into the industry that there were a few less obvious things about the industry that someone one should pass along. Given that I don't know anyone with parents that cruel, I decided to do it myself.

Things thou should know:

1) From your lips (or keyboard) to everyone's ears:

You may have been under the impression that only prayer moved that fast. You're wrong. The publishing industry gossip-net works with a speed that shames any high school gaggle of incrowders and their hangers on. Anything you say can and will be turned in half a million different directions and spun with an ease rivaled only by the spin masters in D.C. in a million more.

2) Funny, they didn't look important

That's right, they didn't. Where ever you are in professional circles, or the internet there are probably at least three people with some sort of stroke there who you don't know, don't recognize and as a rule don't want to offend. That doesn't change the fact that they are important. Most of the people I know in this industry remind me of college professors, accountants and librarians, several of them are or were in fact just those things. Of the handful with vast amounts of presence, you'll almost never see them in one place, it just works that way.

3) Fans are crazy

Yes, I love them. But ask around the con circuit, ask about Tazer Con and Sprinkler Con, or The Boskone From Hell and for some of the other war stories. Better still, go read the things Mercedes Lackey went through regarding a stalker, its right there on her website in all its many colored glory. That aside, the fans are the reason you get paid to lie to people. Fans (and pros) have long, long memories and will repeat what they experience of you for quite some time.

4) Patience isn't a virtue, it’s a necessity.

In some businesses things run about willy-nilly with events happening at a nearly glacial pace, this one isn't nearly so fast. So patience isn't a virtue, it’s a lifeline to what sanity can be claimed for anyone who makes up entire worlds to keep the little voices in their head distracted and then falls far enough under the sway of their hubris to believe other people will want to read their inventions.

5) Oh no they didn't!

Well, yes they did and no they didn't. They obviously don't have the wit to appreciate the quality of your pearls, and the probably did say or do something about if that makes no sense to you. Take note Sherlock, you're now in their shoes.

6) The Bigger they are titled

The less you can figure out from the title. Take royalties for instance, really, it won't take much room. The more grand the name of something in the industry, the less sense it may make. Is that Executive Production Assistant Editor the one doing the work and the one with the stroke or are they the glorified coffee toter, who knows, see numbers one and two.

7) Musical Chairs is a way of life

When you were seven musical chairs was a game you played at birthday parties, and any other time your parents wanted to wear you down in a controllable fashion, you probably aren't seven any more. Do you remember that editor you met who worked at publisher #2 six months ago? Well by now, they may be an agent, an editor at another house, a full time writer, or they might have gone on to do something at loosely connected to the degree they spent years laboring to get. But don't worry, they could be back.

8) The SMOF's rule the (fan) world

Secret Masters Of Fantasy is not (usually) an insult, it too is a way of life, there's even a convention for them. These are the people who either do have as much stroke as a peeved editor or think they do, you probably can't tell which group they are in. Assume they do have the stroke to damage your career. Just because you meet them running a con in San Diego, doesn't mean they aren't engaged so someone who runs cons in Philly, see numbers one, two and seven.

9) There are no new spins

If you have produced something publishable, you probably haven't created something original, or innovative, or heaven help us all never been done before!. You've hopefully managed a way of executing a story it that is entertaining, and well done. That's it, deal with it. As soon as you say of those things or there equivalents you lose credibility faster than a toddler with crumbs on their lips who claims not to have eaten the missing cookie.

Having read several thousand novels over the course of my life, I can't say there are as many characters I'd like to meet. Not all of the characters are ones that I liked, but all had their own personal gravity that inescapably draws the minds eye to them. It goes without saying that most of the people who form the emotional topography of Lois Bujold's books are high on the list of people I'd like to meet, and while Miles and Cordelia have appeal that can't be understated in any way, and Ivan, Piotr, Mark and Cavilo are all signifigant, i think in all that universe the person their I'd like to meet most is Aral. Why, perhaps its because we see him almost exclusively from the worshipful eyes of people who see all his warts and wounds and still bloom in his warm regard.

In epic fantasy there are so many larger than life characters that it has become nearly as much of a cliche to create smaller, weaker heros with pluck and luck to counter what they don't have in brash and brawn. Still, there are a couple of the world beater class I'd enjoy meeting, Marcos the Black from Ray Feist's Midkimea
has such a twisted mind I don't think I could resist the urge to try and burrow into it. He'd probably turn me into a goat or something, but I'd adore the opportunity anyway.

What I refer to as middle fantasy is even richer with fascinating people. Mercedes Lackey created Valdermar, and it and it neighbors are home to quite a few people worth the time to enjoy a few drinks with, Kerowyn was always a fun person to follow the life of. Vanyel despite needing the occasional slap certainly qualifies as well. I think if i could pick only one person from the world I'd want to meet the adept Ma'ar (who's name I've probably butchered). Dianne Wynne Jones made me love fantasy again when I read Deep Secret, I probably hadn't read a single fantasy in over a year before that book and with it the balance of what I read took another of those periodic tacks that have less to do with what's popular than with what is good. Deep Secret introduces one after another of Simon's brothers, in-laws and coworkers and each of them has that genuine it that makes you take notice. Robin Hobb writes probably the darkest fantasy I read for fun and makes the bloody minded perseverance of her characters an unspoken but palpable motive force of her works.

Urban fantasy has its own fun, and quirky characters which I adore. C.E. Murphy wrote about the first cabbie who was drawn as a real person and not a cardboard cutout since Taxi, and I can never wait to see what he'll do or say next. Laura Resnick's Disappearing Nightly stars a prima donna cast of an off Broadway play that has you gobbling pages half hoping something unpleasant will eat them, and half hoping they'll live to be a wiser head some, distant, day. Dave Freer and Eric Flint have one of the most effective social satires of the genre with Pyramid Scheme and the follow on Pyramid Power and while cheerfully assassinating the character of government agencies and agents, mangling mythology with a thoroughness rivaled only by the cartoon Fractured Fairytales, and setting a breakneck pace put characters in front of you that are fully drawn and deftly executed. Cal and Nik Leandros are brothers with the type of relationship that will instantly click with anyone lucky enough to have a relationship that close. Rob Thurman takes this foundation and uses it to build the two separately and together and a world that is nearly intense enough to rival them. Richard Kadrey's regard for the conventions of fantasy are best described as scant, but Butcher Bird  takes us on a hell ride with the gritty and gripping Spyder Lee. Spyder's probably not the guy most of us would pick to perform emergency surgery on us, but he's not boring.

All in all, for me it doesn't matter if the character is a good guy, a bad girl, or somewhere in between, they just have to feel like someone who is genuine and if I couldn't imagine meeting them here in our world, they need to be a real product of the universe they life in, and not someone from the here and now shoved into a world that just makes them look absurd.


onyxhawke: (Default)


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