Review of The Lunar Chronicles / Authorish Stuff

5 Oct

I’ll talk about Rings of Power soonish. We only have two episodes to go for this season. Personally not a fan but we have two to go, so let’s wait for it. I was willing to say “it’s poorly written” but I’ve seen enough stuff in the background and even some that’s understated that I think it’s done intentionally. Know how I I’ve said, “Respect your audience” again and again? Yeah, don’t serve the audience crap and say we just don’t understand or hate or have unrealistic expectations. Stuff I like I will talk about the weak bits. It’s not all negative that I have to say, but let’s just say that bad writing is a cardinal sin in my books.

I am jacking up the price to The Mermaid and the Unicorns on October 7, so get it now while it’s on sale.

Now’s the time to start planning for NaNoWriMo. Honestly my edits for Magus Gambit took longer than I expected, so I’m still not done the Puppeteers book, but I’ll get there. I got my portable keyboard back so I can work on it at work again in full force; right now what I’m honestly thinking of is fixing up another story to send to Champagne for the end of the year as opposed to writing Rogue Healer 4. I have a two book lead and honestly I could just spend time fixing stuff and sending them off to Champagne, but my priority is to get Magus’ Gambit edits done so the book can launch in the spring.

The Lunar Chronicles written by Marissa Meyer first novel Cinder came out in 2012, and I was surprised because I thought that Twilight influenced the cover and by this time there were already movies about those sparkly vampires. I think the hype about Twilight was still pretty much raging, and I’m pretty sure later novels were also influenced a little by The Hunger Games, which wasn’t a bad thing but it’s kind of neat to see things that were trendy and how trends have since changed. The first book Cinder was on my radar for a while, but then last year my niece wanted the box set for Christmas. It was slow going and I never got the box set, but she has all the books and she devoured them, so I requested the first book via library, although she probably would have loaned them to me if I asked nicely. On a side note, we were chatting about books that were obviously influenced by media that she wants to read, but let’s get on with the actual review.

The books are about four fairy tale stories reimagined in a cyberpunk setting, starting with Cinder (Cinderella) a cyborg mistreated because of her half-cybernetic status who finds herself at the center of a plot from the Luna, the former Moon Colony turned hostile nation, who developed a terrible disease which is wreaking havoc on Earth. When the Lunar Queen Levana produces a cure, she agrees to give it for a marriage-alliance with Earth, and it’s hinted that she only wants the hand of the young Emperor so can use his nation as a launching point for Lunars to invade Earth. And she very much wants the cyborg-mechanic Cinder dead, and not just because she’s stolen Kai’s heart.

The books mostly follow this plot while incorporating the stories of Scarlet (Red Riding Hood) Cress (Rapunzel) and Winter (Snow White) and in my opinion they’re the sort of YA science fiction that makes sense to the level of their audience. For instance, Cinder is a cyborg which is a reduced half-status that technically renders her as property, so she’s the one working to support her family (step-family) but she doesn’t get to keep the fruits of her labor. There’s a microchip embedded in everyone and Cinder can’t buy or do anything without being tracked, but it’s really only there for a plot level induced story; I didn’t think it was bad but it occurred to me more than once that, when characters were leaving in a marketplace in a hurry, that they were worried that they’d be flagged as being in a plague area when, there should have been markers and sensors on everyone and it would have logged purchases and who was at what table at what time, even if people were just passing through without making any purchases, the governments would easily have been able to access who was in the area. Same thing a book later when Wolf and Scarlet are traveling by train, and they have to jump to avoid being quarantined. You would be automatically flagged because your ID would have been registered while being logged. Compound this with Cinder being a fantastic mechanic and Cress being a great hacker (and not unrealistic given their respective situations) it just made me curious when they didn’t really talk about how other people would have circumvented the systems in place. There is a black market for microchips, but it’s really to accentuate the plot and not talk about how criminals would really have gone around the system, but I’m digressing so let’s move on.

For the most part the stories were fun although I think they were a little dragging, but once again I think that they were written with their target audience in mind: That is, younger teenage girls who wanted the heroines to be like their friends and get to know what’s going on in their minds. I don’t know why we don’t see more cyberpunk aesthetic aimed at this market; I took my niece to go see Alita: Battle Angel when she was 12 and given the amount of fan art and stories I’ve seen like this, I think lots of young people like the feel of the world and anything cyberpunk easily makes for a decent ‘I must rise against the system’ feel. One could argue that’s because these were character-driven and could have made for much tighter novels, but I think what made the books really work was that the author slowed down to make us care about characters and her reimagining of their stories. I think my favourite novel was Cress where she took a ton of liberties with the story, but it was still recognizable that this was the story of Rapunzel. I think it’s also at heart about the relationships and these girls finding their respective princes. The girls are very different from one another personality-wise; and it’s kind of refreshing to see more fragile personality types contributing to the adventures when it would have been really easy for the more practical and bold characters to do most of the action sequences.

If I had to criticize, I think it’s something very similar that the author herself complained in that she made the Lunar Gift too powerful. I’ve experienced this problem before, and while she introduced the concept of shells (Lunars without the gift and also immune to manipulation) it honestly raised a lot of questions. For the most part, it’s royalty and the thaumaturges that have the strongest use of the gift, and while some people are selected because they’re easily to manipulate (guards, for instance) it strikes me as something that could be a problem in Lunar Society in general – it’s sort of gone into because at one point, Levana is badly burned and scarred because her sister took control of her, and that seems like something her parents should have anticipated (not so much the burning but children being children they don’t always forsee the consequences of their actions. Imagine being mad at your brother for ripping the head off your dolly and you make him run full tilt into the wall and give himself a concussion). Because they can control one another, not having a bioelectric signature gives away a shell, but it just felt like it was a major issue because it came across in the first book more like fairy glamour – they can make you see what you want, and even manipulate emotions. By the end Lunars were able to seize control of people and make them do whatever they wanted, including self-harm and suicide and even rape. I would have explained it that only a select few such as thaumaturges can manipulate the body, but given the advantages the majority of Lunars would have over Earthens, if there was prejudice against cyborgs all Lunars would be treated very suspiciously. It could have even been a status symbol to leave the sector if someone had a gift, and an aristocratic family could lose a member if they weren’t able to perform at certain levels. What we got was the rich aristocracy living posh and making themselves uber attractive and the commoners slaving in the outer sectors, giving it that Hunger Games vibe.

I think the big issue for me was that Levana obviously wanted Emperor Kaito so she could launch an invasion on earth, but the other leaders of Earth were all like, “I guess this is for the best” and sat on their hands. While Luna is developing biological weapons and enhanced soldiers, it’s also heavily implied that the Lunars are vastly outnumbered. The arguement is that they’re not willing to do anything because they have the antidote or that no one else is developing technology to block the Lunar Gift and I don’t understand why at least one leader would be all like, “We’re going to start putting holes in your pretty domes and watch the air leak out until we have what we want.” It culminates with Kai even giving a similar order himself – destroy Artemesia if things go south – he’s really doing everything to get that antidote, but it seems to me that waiting on a teenage Emperor while your people are dying on mass – and he has to marry the evil leader who set wearwolves on your people – I know the plot isn’t about what other world leaders would do (and quite frankly, most world leaders aren’t elected so they might not really care about their people) but here’s what I imagine the American regulars would be like, let alone the guys elected to office. For whatever reason, they’re hillbillies a la King of the Hill:

 “So yer sayin’ that really hot Moon Queen’s got the cure we’ve been inconvenienced with for the past decade?”

“Eyup.”

“But even though roughly 300 people die every day she won’t give it up unless she marries that pretty boy overseas?”

“Eyup.”

“The inexperienced teenage Emperor who just got thrust into his position and is still dealing with the death of his father?”

“Yup.”

“And the Moon Queen just launched some lycanthropes at the white house?”

“They got dropped outside of the city and made the commute even worse.”

“But tens of thousands throughout the country are DEAD? Well, maybe not our country we have freakin’ lasers and such.”

“Eyup.”

“Why haven’t we invaded the moon again?”

“I suppose it’s ‘cuz of them Lunar Whiles. They get in your head.”

“We have androids, don’t we? Things that can’t get taken over?”

“They have the vaccine we need.”

“Yes. Well, we have the air they need to survive and I think they can spare a vial or twenty if they want to keep those shiny glass domes up there intact.”

“But my gran wants to watch the royal weddin’. There’s all the rich folk from all over the world gatherin’ and it’ll be a spectacle. She also thinks the lost heir to the throne’ll show up and this whole ‘enslave earth’ thing will blow over, it’ll be fine.”

Seriously though, it’s quite an enjoyable series. If you’re a hard core science fiction fan questioning how they have artificial gravity on Artemisia, I’ll advise you that this is character-driven and meant to be enjoyed by audiences getting their feet wet in the genre. If you nitpick you’ll be unsatisfied, but if you’re looking for a book for a teenage girl, try it.

Final Week For The Mermaid and The Unicorn Round up and The Problem with Uber Powerful Characters (Finally)

23 Sep

 Enter to win the GC, not to mention the ebook is on sale this week. I’ll announce the winners next week.

Joanne Guidoccio

Sandra’s Book Club

Jazzy Book Reviews

Enchanting Reviews

Eye-Rolling Demigod’s Reviews

Superman needs kryptonite. Captain Marvel needs to be sent hitherto unknown so she’s not around to solve all the problems in End Game. When you’re fighting the boss, he’s a beast. When you unlock him as a playable character, it’s like you unlocked a different skin with weird stats but is not at all like the boss that took you forever to beat.

For me, making a super powerful character and not using them sparingly is like throwing time travel into my fiction. It can be done well, but I need limits. If I can travel back in time again and again, I can fix my mistakes. One of the things I had to learn when I played Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, was that if I ‘died’ I could hit the rewind button if I had enough sand. I could only go back so far, and sometimes you’re rewinding yourself just to watch yourself succumb to the same bad jump or injury.

I’m not saying it’s always hard; when I played FFIX Captain Beatrice was uber-powerful, and honestly you knew you were in for it when she was the boss, because even if you win the battle the cut scene is her knocking all surviving party members to 1 hp and in the story you lose. One of the best parts was when she joined Steiner and they toned her back, so that there was still a challenge in the game. She was treated like a bonus character, and we really only got to use her for like ten minutes out of a 20ish hour game. Sparingly, this worked.

When I watched Rings of Power, it’s like the showrunners forgot that Middle Earth was saved by the most unlikely of creatures, hobbits. There are powerful elves and heroes of men; wizards and dwarves. If you were to rate them physically, the mightiest of hobbits is probably up there with the weakest of men. A small detail in Return of the King is when Aragorn charges at the Black Gate, Merry and Pippin are the first to run after him, and are quickly overtaken by the other soldiers, and hey they’re little they got short legs what did we expect.

I think a big case being made is that the contemporary heroine’s journey is so much different then the hero’s, and it’s not always a good thing. You can read up on Joseph Campbell’s work, and you’ll see that it’s very familiar because it’s used in the original Star Wars and often used in Disney’s newer films.

You can watch videos discussing it, but in a nutshell, with the heroine’s journey, it’s not that the heroine needs to go on a journey. She’s already awesome and is being held back, usually by the dubious ‘patriarchy’ and needs to break free and show them who’s boss.

Thing is, this isn’t really a heroic arc so much as a tragic one. Don’t believe me? It’s the same with Anakin Skywalker.

Born a slave, he was rescued because of his miraculous abilities. From a young age, he was able to do more than anyone else. He was almost not trained because the council worried they couldn’t control him. He grew up fearful, angry and resentful, and was silently being groomed by the powers of darkness who saw his potential.

The duel of the fates in Episode 1 was a battle in which Maul was defeated and still won. Qui-Gon was the only one who could have raised Anakin properly, as a father he never had and he could have guided him and protected him. Obi-Wan did the best he could, and I’m not downplaying his skills or his character. He was Anakin’s brother, and brothers aren’t the same dynamic as a father/son one. I’m not saying brothers aren’t important, but without reading into any more lore or backstory, Qui-Gon was going to train Anakin whether or not he had permission. Obi-Wan is probably my favourite character in the series, and he was probably fine to train Anakin in the ways of the Jedi, but he wasn’t ready to take a hurting person and do what needed to be done.

Read what I said again two paragraphs ago. Anakin is only free because of his powers. He’s better than anyone else in terms of pod racing or flying or building, and he knows. The council accuses him, as a child, of being fearful. What child wouldn’t be nervous in his situation? The people who are kind to him are manipulating him. Obi-Wan is his brother to whom he aspires to be, not his protector who doesn’t care if they’re bestest buddies that day. Fathers discipline, brothers squabble.

It’s a tragedy of the highest order, and I think a lot of villains who stay with us have motivations that stay with us because we can relate to them. A character who thinks they are being held back, not given either the acknowledgement or the love that they think they deserve, and feels that they’re always in the right?  

But Leia, the Jedi Council was corrupt. And what if someone does want to write about their corrupt society?

I’m going to classify myself as a Casual-Plus Star Wars fan. I don’t watch Clone Wars but I have played Lego Star Wars that involves the characters, usually as a third or when I was watching kids. I buy graphic novels and other stuff for kids who like it come Christmas or Birthdays. I haven’t read any of the EU which got nuked when Disney bought the franchise, but I’ve seen bits and pieces of it. More over though, I listen to people talk about popular culture and trends because that helps me as a writer.

I’m not saying you can’t write about a corrupt society, but most people who hate their evil king or whatever still tend to love their land, their people, etc. You can love your country and criticize your government at the same time.

This is getting long enough. I’m not saying you can’t have powerful characters. I’m saying that if you decide to deck out your characters in cool attributes and not really think about the story or the theme, it’s probably going to suffer. If your character can easily defeat a dragon, the dragon is no longer a threat. You’ll need to magic up something they can’t handle, and in my experience, it’s a lot easier to give someone limits in the first place than to have a convoluted reason as to why Earth’s Greatest Champion is unavailable to use the thing they used during last week’s episode.

Week 3 and Respect the Lore

18 Sep

 Third Week Round Up – This week is the last week to enter the draw to win a GC. Thank you so much to everyone who’s hosted, reviewed, and did a girl a solid sharing.

fundinmental

Westveil Publishing

Read your Writes Book Reviews

The Pen and Muse Book Reviews

Long and Short Reviews

This week was a lot of fun because I got to pick my own topics quite a bit.

About that Lore Thing

I’m listening to a lot of people go on and on about Galadriel in the RoP show, and there’s a substantial deviation about what people are griping about and what people are pretending they’re griping about.

My nephew was telling me on Saturday, among other hilarious things (it was a really, really fun conversation on our way to the bookstore), that people don’t like RoP because of racism, so I’m letting him watch and decide for himself if he likes the show and I told him elves can have short hair or be black or whatever, but people should like or not like something and be okay with it for better reasons than that, but also to respect that other people will or will not like things he feels the opposite way about, and that’s okay too. (Also coming up was that I needed to write books that don’t suck so much – he’s not really a fan of Mermaids or Unicorns, give ‘im a few years and he’ll be ready for my other books). When we got to the bookstore the conversation turned to Lego, which both my nephew and older niece have grown out of, but his younger sister, is still quite excited for.

There’s always going to be people complaining that Waif-Fu is a thing. I’m not here to argue; the more removed your movie is from reality, the less I care. I’m more than cool with tiny little Yoda being the most badass character on one ‘Verse and pointing out Hobbits are kind of adorable little mascots in another who also saved Middle-Earth and helped take down the Witch King.

The real problem is that fantasy is treated by outsiders where anything can happen and so they completely forget what the established rules of the universe they’re entering are. People have compared Oz to Wonderland, and while there are similarities, I was telling my niece that my problem with “Heartless” by Marissa Mayer is that the plot would have worked better in a world like Oz; so Heartless as its own book is fine but Heartless as part of Wonderland, just isn’t wacky or odd for me. Now, I’m not saying authors can’t look at a work and change things (Wide Sargassio Sea), the real problem is saying, “It’s fantasy we can do whatever we want HAHAHAHAHA why does everyone hate these creative choices?”

Lore is whatever you did to establish what the rules of your world are. Is it basically our world with one or two things off? How would these things fundamentally change the world from our own? For instance, let’s pretend some people have abilities other’s don’t, like X-Men or Avatar: The Last Airbender. How do the non-powered people deal with people who can easily overpower them? How might our culture and change if human beings became immortal? Science fiction and fantasy is not just a setting, it asks questions such as these and runs with them.

Wheel of Time’s  world is all about if human beings got to use magic, split between the biological sexes, and suddenly only one gender can use it safely. Not every culture embraces the use of magic, in many cultures it became taboo but, in just about every culture, gender lines became more rigid because this was a fundamentally important no matter if you embraced or feared the use of the One Power.

One problem is when you establish something and then you go out of your way to pretend that never happened. I complained about FFVII last week, so here I am whining about Tinkerbelle this week

Tinkerbelle’s Origin. Then they decided like three movies later to give her a twin sister

Leia, what do you care about Tinkerbelle?

I don’t get summoned to the basement to defeat the boss during holidays much anymore, but I have zero qualms watching a movie with the kids, and so I’m asking those of you who make content for children nicely Don’t treat kids like they’re stupid, my nieces noticed dagnabbit. I don’t expect a lot of depth, but this sort of stuff makes the franchise look sloppy.

What if it improves the lore?

This is a Your Mileage may vary thing.

I was getting my butt beat in chess by the same medic a few years ago so I was looking up chess openings and I learned a move called En Passant. It came up in conversation, but I didn’t like the rule because that’s not how my grandpa taught me. The other medic went home and looked it up because, he didn’t learn that move growing up either. We agreed it was legit but neither of us ever played it because that’s maybe a thing in France, but not our neck of the woods.

That’s what it’s like going into an established universe and changing stuff. When you enter a house of cards, you need to find out what the house rules are, and can’t claim half way through the night, hey I’m playing by another set of rules for this round. If you want to play a variant, you establish it ahead of time. That’s why it’s okay that dragons in this movie are mindless monsters and in this other one it’s voiced by Sean Connery and quite pleasant. And I don’t mind that my family technically cheats all the time in Scrabble, it’s in house and we let anyone entering from outside read the dictionary to their heart’s content but, if I were invited to play Scrabble at your house I’m going to play by the same rules as everyone else.

The real problem here isn’t that Galadriel is too powerful. Glorfindel (Sir Not Appearing in The Film) killed a Balrog so there are very, very powerful characters.

Galadriel shouldn’t be acting like a human teenager reamed out by Elendil. “We need to have these forges done by spring” makes no sense for immortal beings. Having a festival singing, “Everyone sticks together, and nobody’s left behind” and immediately having an event that’s almost for surely condemning a family with an injured family member being left behind?

Be consistent, yo.

The minute anything can happen, because it’s fantasy and elves aren’t real LOL the stakes are no longer there and your audience can’t engage the same way. The story becomes inconsistent and can quickly become nonsense. The odd rule break here or there, depending on how it’s handled might be okay, but to me that’s like me wanting to break a fundamental rule of grammar before I understand what I’m doing. A really, really good author might be able to pull it off but, me, more specifically me when I was just starting to write? I’m going to annoy readers and, unless I prove that I know what I’m doing, they’re probably not going to tolerate what looks like a fundamental misunderstanding of the source material.

Blog Tour Week Round Up and The Problem with Entering Science-Fiction and Fantasy Fandoms

9 Sep

Our Town Book Reviews

The Faerie Review

Jerry’s Circumlocution

Two Ends of a Pen

BIbliomanaic Aza

Hope. Dreams. Life… Love

Just a quick update: Ankle is not fractured. Sore, and my mummy took away my car.

This was supposed to be about “Uberpowerful Characters” but let’s just talk about science fiction and fantasy fans and, why you do not mess with the lore.

I played final fantasy video games on the PS1 when I was in junior high and high school. I whined when FFVIII came out and the characters were hyper-realistic, not manga-style inspired. Then FFIX came out, and I whined that they were cutesy and chibi, not realistic.

There’s no winning here.

Fast forward, and I’m in University, and the Compilation of FFVII starts milking us for all we’re worth and, I belonged to this I’m going to say, sassy pants group of CloudxTifa supporters who were really bonded by a love of sarcasm. I never played it, but Crisis Core came out, and we were all whining. Not because we hated Zack or that he had a bigger role to play than the original story let on.

No, the original character Genesis was rumored to be Sephiroth’s equal. Several members of my faction were mostly laughing that he was based on a musician, but in general we weren’t having any of it. Mostly, because that threw too many holes in the original story. Sephiroth was head and shoulders better than anyone else, there was no indication of any near-rival in universe. I never played Crisis Core or Before Crisis or really anything besides watching Advent Children and Last Order, the best I got is I’ve seen some clips online.

So when you’re dealing with people complaining about changing the lore – we fans complain about it. Like, a lot. Ad nauseum. I chatted with several of my friends from those days who played the FFVII remake, and they’re pretty blunt and honest about what game mechanics they liked, what stylistic choices they didn’t.

And I know it’s not easy to want to defend a property/show. When they put out trailers for Kingdom Hearts II, the Aerith fans were a little panicky, because the voice actress they picked for Aerith was… not the best, and this is around the time that Advent Children was coming out. Same actress.

Saying this character had weak voice acting or that costume or set was inferior to something else we saw is normal. It’s what we do. It doesn’t mean we hate something or it’s stupid, it’s that we talk and gripe a little.

So when I enter an established fandom, I kind of expect someone there who will complain and talk about the brilliance of what was done before, or talk about the original adaptation from back before I was born.

Straw-manning your opponents and pretending we don’t like something because it’s different… yeah. We’re going to grumble no matter what you do. I grew up on a diet of Mad Magazines and the Naked Gun Films, which basically made fun of the stuff I enjoyed, so us poking fun and making memes, that’s just part and parcel of the fandom. It’s not everyone – some people are purists, and I have been corrected by two panelists at at a convention for daring call Endor a planet (It’s a MOON!) but most of us will turn our brains off so long as the lore is mostly consistent.

Then there’s these fans.

Week One Round Up / More on Adaptation

6 Sep

Sorry for the delay – yesterday after my pre-work nap, my ankle decided to swell up and I can barely put any weight on it.

Literary Gold

Andi’s Middle Grade and Chapter Books

All the Ups and Downs

Fabulous and Brunette

The Avid Reader

Give some love to The Avid Reader, because no matter what I try I can’t share her link on Facebook. I talked to Marianne about it, she said it’s an ongoing issue Facebook will not resolve.

Also, I need to learn to stop sending pictures with my articles, no one ever uses them.

Here’s that picture of the kelpie referenced in today’s blog about ten fearsome water creatures:

And above is the size difference between humans, great whites and Megalodons. Artist rendering but you get the idea.

So I know on Facebook I said I would not watch Rings of Power until I saw my dad, but he’s not coming in this week and I go laid up with the ankle so I watched the first two episodes, he doesn’t seem particularly keen. I’m going to give my opinion after I see all the entire first season, all i wanted to say is yeah, there’s problems but most people are distracted by how beautiful everything is. Try not to stress out about it; I was chatting with someone I knew from Highschool and I used the analogy of Wicked! The musical as it relates to the original books of Oz. Now, I was a reader and I watched this anime cartoon as a kid. I’m not calling myself an Oz Purist, but I can enjoy Wicked! for what it is (I have never seen it, no, but I read the books) but I don’t understand why people get all antsy about discussing movies, saying you’re a phobe or an ist when it comes out, then like a year later we can all agree the writing on the New Star Wars movies was not its strong point.

As a kid Return to Oz scared me; this one was almost as bad when we got to the gnomes but, I don’t think anything is going to scare me as much as that Princess stealing heads.

Anyway, I will reserve judgement on RoP but will point out that there wasn’t enough that they did have to expand on the lore… but really they changed around a lot of the lore anyway, so it felt very picky-choosy what they wanted to follow. Now, it’s more likely than not we’re not going to get a big reveal – adaptations, especially movies always seemed dumbed down from source material, I think a big part of that is audience expectation. I do find it a little frustrating when people look at the film version as the canonical one, but that’s a rant for another day.

When it rains it pours

22 Aug

Doing another online book promo tour. I’m going to book another tour for another book, but I’m going to be busy. The tour starts a week from today and I just got the list of who needs what, so my apologies to the blog hosts you are a very high priority and your articles will be sent in a timely manner. Honestly a lot of these articles are fun so it’ll be a pleasure.

Vacation went by too quick and I could work every day if I wanna. I really don’t wanna and want work to hire people. They’re making excuses and whatever at this point. So far I haven’t been kayaking at all this summer, but the good news is kayaking can easily be done into the fall, I just need to get a trailer or a roof rack and figure it out.

Got the edits back for Magus’ Gambit, and I have the biggest first world problem ever. The sub-story was left me unsatisfied, but it’s a 135k novel and I didn’t have time to really do more with it. The editor’s right, but all of my ideas to fix it feel less cerebral and like I should have fixed it a while ago because it was sent to the publisher like two years ago. Don’t worry about the creative one over here; problem solving is my speciality and I’m already solving it without doing it, if that makes any sense.

Finally writing wise I’m at 65k for The Puppeteer Book, yes I know it needs another title but waaah. The original plan was to write 1k a day and have a roughish draft by September; which would work if it was still in that 75k range where I thought we were going, but this is feeling heavier so my honest guess is 90+ to even 100ish.

Plus I have a short story for an anthology that needs editing, other projects that need editing, and I need to hire an editor if I want to self-publish something next year; I’m having fun with this so I think it’s a good idea. I got the articles as priorities, and for the most part they’re light, but still good to know that I’m going to be busy for the next little while. But, if you missed us at Shelmerdine’s, we’ll be back next month and selling the books again at the Farmer’s Market, I think it’s September 17 but I’m not looking at a calendar. I won’t be sneaking off midsale to do anything online, and I actually have a full Saturday off, so I’ll be there.

I went out for Coffee and I’m the one who got Roasted

9 Jul

I just sent Titan’s Ascent to Champagne. Turns out I’ve been neglecting it for a few months and when I did my edits mostly yesterday it was mostly fine. I have a bunch of work to do for Magus’ Gambit, but my goal was to get TA sent off because after the next four days I am on VACATION.

Now, I already agreed to a trade and I’ll pick up, but I need a break. No help is coming for the healthcare system; the people in charge seem to want to run it into the ground. If you’re thinking I’m whining, we’re looking at a 25% nursing vacancy, and it used to be unheard of to have a truck out of service, and now they’re out all over. I doubt I’ll be working out of my own station, instead mandated to go everywhere. I’m mostly frustrated because I’ve helped out and gone out of my way to keep trucks in service in the past, and it seems that it was for nothing.

As for goals/blah blah blah I have been working really decently on a project I’m just going to call Puppet Masters but it will have a better title eventually. My goal is to write 1000ish words a day and get it finished (rough) for September, as well as I’d like to rewrite something else and send it to Cassie – I think by November (nanowrimo) is ambitious but I like goal setting. I’m going to hopefully kayak and oil paint and mountain bike, but I’ll be volunteering at the Bull Bash at Austin and we’ll see what happens.

As for the title, I ordered a T-shirt from The Babylon Bee and two of the baristas at the daily grind were so amused, despite probably not knowing what The Babylon Bee is, kept dropping bee puns at me. Like, took turns at the register, gave me a cube, and proceeded to come make more Bee related puns. I loved it; I used to study at The Grind when they were at the old location for University/Paramedicine so when my province decided to lock everybody down they were the business I went out of my way to support. So if you’re looking for a coffee shop in the west end of Winnipeg, give them a shot. Just don’t expect them to Beehave.

He does look a little too excited. The barista said he looked Buzzed.

Happy Canada Day!

30 Jun

               I’ll be at work for it (as per the norm, LOL) but I will be heading to Battle for Canada at the Goldeye’s Stadium for Saurday and Sunday.

               Witchslayer’s Scion is now available in print. My niece has the only print copy of Witchslayer’s Scion in the province I am aware of, but more are ordered. I hope they don’t take as long as my DoM copies but I will let everyone know when I have them in my paws.

Reflections of Writing for an Audience Part 2

               A few years ago, I read a short story by Ron who was entering it a contest and it was for a high school audience. His story featured the casual use of alcohol. I pointed out that there was nothing wrong with that, but he ought to remove it. Why? Students in High School drink alcohol all the time.

               It’s not the audience, it’s the librarians and parents.

               Most parents aren’t naive and think their Precious Junior would NEVER – but there’s a difference between acknowledging reality and condoning a behavior. Removing the use of alcohol in the scene changed nothing (I believe the characters wanted hot chocolate, with a little extra kick or something). There’s plenty of stories for young readers that deal with adult issues, and that’s a good thing – but ultimately I think the majority of parents can have justified concerns. I was ready for Star Wars at eight, but other kids might not be ready until they’re closer to ten, and it may not be a violence issue so much as a sensory issue. Letting people know, being aware of concerns, it allows for the writer to have a general framework for what is acceptable for that target audience. It’s not censorship so much as understanding what the audience demands are.

               A lot of the stories I grew up enjoying weren’t age appropriate, and I’ll be honest – when I write, I often enjoy it when I don’t have to go the route of having the hero punch his way through the plot. There’s a time and a place for Conan the Barbarian, but there’s also a time and a place for stories where heroes use their wits as well as their brawn. When I’m done TA I’m going to be tweaking my MG steampunk mysteries, and they are similar to the tone of Ducktales and The Adventures of Tintin. There’s a lot that wouldn’t fly today – I’m not talking old fashioned depictions of race or gender stereotypes, so much as Tintin getting knocked unconscious and kidnapped a lot and there’s an awful lot of firearms.

               In general, I think because kids develop at different levels, it’s important to know not everyone’s ready for the same stuff at the same time, and just because I’m more advanced in my language or math, doesn’t mean I’m emotionally ready for some more complex ideas. That’s when sensitivity readers have their place when you want to talk about these complicated issues. I’m not saying they’re always right, but it certainly helps to have different perspectives.

               With kids stories, I like an invisible contract with the reader: Your hero may get in trouble, but we’ll get back to the problem we started with. That was honestly my reason for making Lorelei such a soft villain in TMatU. In that story, Daphne and friends encounter a lot worse characters than the sea witch responsible for beaching Daphne on land. They want different things, but there’s an unspoken promise to the reader – hey, we need to get back to Lorelei. I know things look bad, but we’ll get through the current obstacle. I asked my niece when she was younger how she felt about the Puppeteers and, if it was too scary and we could skip it. It was her favourite part of the book, and the puppeteers is the current WIP. Another kid, or even an adult, might find that part incredibly squeamish (kind of like how Neil Gaiman’s Coraline gets creepier as an adult then as a kid), but it’s good to know that when she was on the younger range of age appropriate, she adored that sequence so I know I’m not an outlier in the audience.

               This is where knowing your audience is super important. For instance, let’s pretend I retire in Pinawa with my parents and start my own Kayaking/Adventure Tour companies. I offer breakneck boating, death marches into remote locations, all the stuff that should be attracting hard core athletes.

               Then I find out the Red Hat Lady’s society would like to book me so they can go bird watching and have a pleasant hike (that needs to be accessible for everyone). Also, there’s another group who wants a pleasant pontoon around the lake and, another group is also interested but they’ve got small kids, so please no walkie into bear territory. If business is booming, I may refer them to someone else who does that or, I could recognize a need and tweak my business accordingly. There will be people who want EXTREME and I get to take them kayaking, but there’s going to be people who just want the boats and to go (they’ll be fine) and the people who have never done it before and need some lessons and a guide.

               That’s how I feel about changing a story. It’s not really censorship, so much as knowing what an audience would like and trying your best to accommodate, if accommodation is the goal. Not everyone is going to agree, because there would be people in the Red Hat Society who would have loved a more robust hike, but when they’re with their group, they probably know that while they’re with their group, this is the sort of activity that’s appropriate.

               For marketing purposes, people generally like to see an idealized version of themselves using the products they do. So when I’m writing a book for an audience who is twelve years old, they want to see themselves as older and more capable as opposed to average or more child-like. Not quite the opposite happens as we age – most people don’t want to be younger, but be mistaken for being younger because we associate youth with health, fertility, beauty, etc.

               When i was a kid I basically thought 16 was an adult. A very young adult, but a 16 year old could do everything I deemed important (have a boyfriend, drive, stay out late, have a job, they looked more like an adult than a kid) whereas when I was sixteen I was starting at myself and my friends, and as someone who hit puberty early, the only thing I got on my sixteenth birthday was my abs. The driver’s license came like, three weeks later (first try!) but I was still living under my parent’s roof and, I learned even as an adult, if I don’t tell my mother what I’m up to for extended lengths of time she gets stressed out. Shoot, even as an adult living on my own I have to text her in bad weather when she knows I’m on truck.

               I don’t think there’s anything wrong with sticking to your vision for your product, but I like to think of it as a framework when writing. Needs beat the hierarchy as opposed to wants, so if I were to approach this as a low language, high interest project, the needs are different than that of a child. What that means is that the prospective audience has low literary, but they don’t want to read books written for children. They need familiar language, but they want to be engaged – just as everyone else. So you as the writer have to make a decision – not so much as the story, but as a product as a whole. I love me some thick bricks – and the niece commented on that when she picked up Witchslayer’s Scion, and I told her that was the size I used to like to write when I was getting started, and it sits at around 135k. Usurper is still sitting around 160k, and my goal is to chop it down and send it to Champagne Books this year. I hated Ron’s suggestions that I cut it up into multiple books, but I also have to look at feasibility. Other authors get to put out 200k bricks, but while I’m capable of writing that length, I’m realistic when I’m looking at the POD prices. I can sell The Mermaid and the Unicorn and Dreams of Mariposa cheaper at events because they’re not super thick, and we don’t have the budget to mass print 600-800 page novels.

Reflections of Writing for an Audience

15 Jun

               I just signed Rogue Healer: Magus’ Gambit with Champagne Books. I have a decent leg up on the series as I’m basically just preening Book 3 and because I cut so much stuff out of said book, I have more than a decent leg up on another title. Not The Next One, as the focus will shift away from Koth in Book 4, and focus instead on Una and Sajera, but honestly I’d be lying if I didn’t say I started it like a year ago. Just a few scenes, and my other goal is to get one of my science fiction novels to Champagne for year end so it doesn’t feel like all I’m doing is the series.

               This is mostly not about my more adult work (as in meant for a more mature audience) but thinking about writing for other people.

               The main problem I see when I join review groups or agree to review something, is often I’m not the intended audience. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a profile on people like *moi* but I seem to not care about the romance being in the forefront, and I’ve been lectured lately that I should be more empathetic. Enjoying science fiction and fantasy has become more widespread accepted, my guess because of the internet but this is about writing for a younger audience.

               When I took my first creative writing course at university, I didn’t really get it when my professor asked, “Who are you writing for?” He asked if we were writing for an audience or for ourselves, but I naively thought that there was a market for books I liked to read. Why wasn’t it both? “I’m writing the book I wish existed,” summed it up. Translation: I’m doing this for me, and other people will like it.

               Should like it. Could like it (maybe).

               Things changed when my sister started having kids. It wasn’t just books, as I became hyper critical of cartoons, video games, and whether or not things were appropriate for her kids. Little things – like “Hey yeah come do zumba with me on the wii.” And me going from not caring what the character was wearing to very much caring what she was wearing. I don’t normally read popular books when they’re popular, but I’m not ignorant of popular culture and I noticed retellings of stories, and what’s emphasized and what they do now as opposed to ‘back when I was a kid’ (I don’t really remember the 80’s in any great detail, but bright colors, cheap animation unless they were Disney for the most part) I started to think about the stories that her kids would grow up with, as well as the stories I wished existed when I was a kid.

               So although I didn’t have time to finish it until I got laid off, I came up with and eventually wrote Garnet and Silver. I didn’t aim it at my niece for when she was a baby and a toddler, but I wanted her to have an alternative to some of the media she’d be subjected to when she was older. I didn’t feel comfortable writing for a super young child, but when she graduated from picture books to early readers and then chapter books, I realized she enjoyed a lot of the same stuff I did when I was growing up. It wasn’t all the same – for the most part I don’t watch much animation meant for kids, but I drafted The Mermaid and the Unicorns basically thinking about the kind of story I would have liked when I was about 8 or 9, although it’s marketed towards 10-12 year olds. I drafted another novel aimed at a more male market prior to drafting Daphne’s tale, and I’m editing it now but it doesn’t really sparkle the way TMatU did.

               She’s since outgrown the original audience I envisioned the book for, but she has made a request for another book, about the puppeteers that appeared briefly in TMATU. Honestly, I was tempted to cut the puppets scene because it was a little intense, but I let her read it when she was age appropriate and it was her favourite part. Let’s just say that story’s coming along, but also that I’m not thinking so much of the 10 year old as the teenager giving me feedback and what she’d like to see in a story.

               My aunt has pointed out there’s a need for books aimed at boys the same age that I did TMatU, as the vast majority of books are aimed at girls (and she thinks if I had rebranded and put less focus on Mermaids, I could have gone with a little more gender neutral marketing because it’s not really a girly-girl book. Then I saw the cover and loved it so…) so I’m also drafting up another novel aimed at that 10-12 year old demographic; not so much aimed at boys but aimed at people who like star wars with a male protagonist. I have also written two steampunk adventure-mysteries, so if you’re noticing that I’m reading a lot more YA or even Middle Grade on Goodreads after I finish the Aurora ballot, that’s why.

               I think it’s more natural to want to write to an audience if you see a need for them, but I’ll be honest, my big issue when writing for younger readers was I quickly graduated from them. Don’t get me wrong: The Adventures of Frog and Toad are brilliant, and I remember being at Costco and seeing a boxed set for Narnia as a teenager, wanting it but feeling too embarrassed to pick it up. I wasn’t discerning in taste as a child, but I knew chapter books were better than books aimed at my demographic. I didn’t get all of what the ‘adult’ books were trying to say, and I thought it would be weird to write for a group I wasn’t familiar with.

               In truth, what it took was being invested in people who needed a product from that demographic. It’s like there’s always a need for low-level high interest reading material. Basically the problem with low-literacy rates is that adults who need to learn to read don’t also need to learn their colors or what sounds farm animals make. They need to practice on material that’s easy to read, and also holds interest. When they move on to chapter books, they want to read material of interest for their age group now, not stuff they would have found interesting when they were a child.

               The problem as I see it is that most aspiring writers have an idea what they want to do, and that may change over time, but they need to be invested in what they write. I was told that the two ways I’d make money as a writer was : 1) Write Romance 2) Write Non-fiction (Technical writing) and part of me wanted to bang off some romance novels for the $$$. The problem, one of my professors said, was that they’ll seem disingenuous. You have to want to do it. I don’t particularly like looking for romance novels. I’ve read some that are done brilliantly, but generally, it’s not my jam. Don’t get me wrong, there’s times where you want to abandon/burn every project, but I think in general her point stands. The best parodies are written by people who love the original work, because they know it beyond the superficial.

               Deciding out of the blue, “I want to write for children” without thinking about a child you know who has a want or a need, really that’s writing for yourself and using a child-friendly format. There’s nothing wrong with that; the book Go the F*** to Sleep was written for adults.

               That’s not to say you have to relearn everything from square one: Far from it. But it would be like me deciding to start writing westerns when I haven’t read any in probably ten years. It’ll take time to know what’s standard, what’s cliché, and what a modern audience wants. And I like watching westerns from time to time.

               This is getting a little long so I’ll do a part 2 when I talk a little bit about some of the choices I make and marketing.

Dealing with The Quiet of The Quest

6 Jun

I will start this by saying this is sort of but not really a response to the reviewers last month that said that some of my scenes dragged in TMatU. It prompted me thinking of the idea, but really the idea isn’t “Hey this scene is too long” so much as, “What do you do if you’re at a boring part of the journey?” Some writerswill just skip to the next interesting bit, but some authors want the reader to really get a sense of what the characters are going through. I think there’s different strokes for different folks, so I’m going to be looking at this from a lens for those who like mainstream adventure-style stories, not more literary ones.

Wheel of Time is infamous for the “Slog” where very little happens in several of the middle books. Things do happen – major events, really – but those events take up a relatively short time in a book where we spend a lot of time posturing with nobles for a succession story that could easily be removed, as well another story about one of the main characters searching for his kidnapped wife that could have been removed without effecting the plot, but ultimately built up the world and characters. It seems that they take up an awful lot of time and when we could be learning about the Dark Tower, as well as taking away from the fracturing of the White Tower.

 WoT isn’t unique to this. In the final Harry Potter book, The Deathly Hallows, tensions rise and the trio get into an argument and Harry points out that Ron shouldn’t be expecting to find a Horcrux every other day.

The PS2 game Shadow of the Colossus only has boss battles, but it’s not like you go from colossus to colossus immediately. Part of the reason for not having any other real obstacles – short of you pitching Wanderer off a ledge that will kill him – was to emphasize how alone and isolated he was except for his lone horse companion.

Video games don’t translate like books though. I think if you don’t want to bring it to the audience’s attention, you can use the lull to build something up. That can be character development, or world development, or something else that the reader would find interesting.

For the most part I think it depends on the audience and expectation, but for the most part this is not a big deal so long as you consider who your audience is and what their expectations are. There is already a precedence for really long, really involved world building, so if that seems to be your audience, they might be fine with it. That being said, if people are waiting years between sequels, I think it’s important that they have some pay off in books. I’m was told that I could skip certain books if I so chose, but because it was a first read through, I wade through.

Maybe I’m in the minority, but I for one like the extended scenes in the original Lord of the Rings even if they don’t have any real bearing to the overall story. Small scenes, especially in the shire, build up the world. I like the scenes where Bilbo painting his kinfolk in an unflattering light, them choosing baking over a kiss and the comforts of home over grand halls or great feats. I also never complain about the ‘fake out’ endings for the end of Return of the King, if anything I was disappointed that the Scouring of the Shire didn’t happen and at least in the theatrical version, what happened to Sauromon and Grima Wormtongue was left ambiguous. Would another battle at the shire have seemed smaller and less significant then the climax of finally destroying the ring? Yes, but Tolkien wasn’t writing an action-adventure cliffhanger novel. It’s stood the test of time and builds slowly, and because it did the work, the pay off is there and doesn’t seem hackneyed.

I don’t think there’s an easy answer and I don’t think writing tight novels where every scene counts is necessarily a bad thing. I do know, however, that I for one will skip sections if I see that the author doesn’t have dialogue (and we’re not in a battle) or even POV’s I could care less about. For the most part I think audiences don’t want the author to show their work and marvel at world building as much as to know what happens next, or how someone they’ve built an emotional attachment to will triumph. I think there are definitely audiences for slower, more literary styles where we spend an awful lot of time contemplating feelings, but for the most part I would give audiences some pay off or mention that the character was bored on the long dusty road, and almost got into a scrap for amusement and then move on to the next part of the story that people would reference. It may not always work and there’s no pleasing everyone, but I think in general that less is more – that most audiences will fill in the gaps that the writer doesn’t tell them. It’s not the easiest to show loneliness, doubt, or despair, because these aren’t emotions that the majority of readers particularly want to feel when they’re reading.

It’s like characters who brood. A little goes a long way.