Archive for June, 2013

I know my next post was to be a brilliant exposition of the difference between showing and telling, but this came up and I had to write. EW listed its top 100 movies, TV shows, albums, and books, and while I have issues with all of them, I’ll stick to books. And genre books, because I’m a genre writer.

No. 5 is One Hundred Years of Solitude. I have no problem with that, but no. 7 is the Harry Potter series. Okay, first, it’s a series. She had seven books to work with, and if that’s not unfair already, between you and me, she should have done it in five. Book no. 6 was a slog. There, I’ve said it.

Skip, skip, Skip. Some I agree with, others not, but there are too many. So we end up at no. 44: His Dark Materials. Read it. Good, yes. No. 44 of all time? Not a chance.

Ender’s Game is no. 49. A fine novel. Certainly a candidate for top 100 in SF novels.

Skip, skip. Dracula at no. 59. Really? Have you read it lately? Dracula is most notable for the fact that Van Helsing didn’t keep Lucy from becoming a vampire by killing her with his indiscriminate use of transfusions from any donor who happened to be in reach. This is especially egregious when Frankenstein comes in at no. 81.

Finally, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is no. 67, and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is no. 99. Didn’t like the first, loved the second, but neither belongs on this list.

EW says these lists are in part to generate discussion. I’d like to discuss how the editors at EW need to read more books.


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“The Invisible City” is now available at smashwords.com in all major formats (including Apple, Kobo, B&N). And keep a lookout for “Once a Knight,” coming soon.

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I went to my niece’s graduation recently, an event worthy of congratulations and very happy all around, but it was also notable in that she graduated with the same major as I: English with a concentration in creative writing. While I was sitting there waiting for her name to be called, I couldn’t help but think of the things I’ve learned about writing outside of school, or any of the classes I’ve taken since. I’m sure I am a far better writer for having gone through them, but there are a few things that no teacher, no class ever seems to cover, perhaps because they’re seen as so basic no one ever talks about them (or perhaps they really are that basic and it just took me a long time to learn them). There are two that come to my mind:

“Write what you know.” If you’re writing a romance novel about a pizza chef whose girl just dumped him for a fireman, and you happen to be a short-order cook whose girl just dumped him for a movie stuntman, then writing what you know is pretty straightforward, just change the names. But if you’re writing an adventure novel about a World War I infantryman whisked one million years into the future, well, how many of your friends has that actually happened to? Fortunately, writing what you know doesn’t mean that you have to know everything you write.

In an early scene in The Invisible City, my protagonist is walking through a field. It so happens that I have walked through fields in my time, so I was able to visualize my character’s experience. I know how to walk through a field, so I’m writing what I know. The fact that this walk takes place a million years from now is not relevant. Similarly, later on my character has problems relating to a woman. In fact, he makes a complete fool of himself. I defy any adult male not to be able to write that scene from his own experience.

The upshot is, writing what you know doesn’t require you to know everything you write. It only requires that you know enough about what you’re writing to give your story verisimilitude. The speculative elements of your story will seem strange to everyone, because none of your readers has ever traveled through time. But everyone has made a fool of himself at some point, so write that and put another name on it. If your reader can identify with your character at that moment, he is much more likely to follow you through whatever time portal or black hole your story encounters.

Next time: The Amateur’s Guide to Showing Versus Telling.


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I am proud to announce that I have published my first novel, The Invisible City, on Amazon. This is an unabashed throwback to the days of pulp SF adventures in the spirit of Edgar Rice Burroughs. A disillusioned soldier is thrust into the role of reluctant hero of another war when he stumbles onto a time travel expedition and is accidentally propelled one million years into the future. There, in a world where eons of genetic testing have created (and re-created) both miracles and monsters, he must fight Earth’s alien conquerors for the life of one woman. But when he finds the chance to return to his own time, he is faced with an impossible conflict between love and honor, a conflict he cannot possibly win.

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