Thursday, December 6, 2018

Fade to Black

So, it's time for those end-of-the-year lists, and one of the classics is the Bad Sex Award, and this year it's some really glorious badness.  Looking at these ignoble entries, I'm reminded of why I tend to err on the side of "fading to black" when things are going to go much past kissing. 

Of course, anything resembling erotica or explicit sex would not fit in with the tone I've set for the Maradaine books.  Those tend to fit in the same category as PG-13 movies/primetime television, in terms of what I'm going for with them.  Not quite YA, but certainly friendly to a YA-seeking audience. 

BUT-- I've got a non-Maradaine project on the horizon, just in the planning stage, and I think the tone and feel for that one is going to want something a bit more explicit.  We'll see.  Still sorting it out, but I'd like to think this is an opportunity to build a new set of tools for my writing toolbox.

Or an opportunity to make that year's awards. 

But that's a challenge for tomorrow.  Right now I'm working on Shield of the People and The Fenmere Job, both of which will have their share of kissing and fading-to-black.  Who's kissing who, and when do we fade?  Well, you'll have to see.  But I will say that characters who were noted by some readers as not getting to kiss anyone in earlier books will be kissing people in these.

Back to work.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Holiday Books

So, I have to confess, I'm not much of one for holiday books.  I certainly would struggle to pick a favorite.

Of course, I do have a deep fondness for A Christmas Carol.  It's a fantastic story, that's at the same time deceptively simple in structure, yet rich and complex in execution. And I kind of love that it went from concept to in-stores in six weeks as a "damn I need some fast money" ploy.  Which: mad respect.

On a simpler level, I love A Visit from St. Nicholas.  It's such a pure and delightful story of Christmas joy, and there was a time when I could recite it for memory.  Now I might stop and stumble a bit if I tried.  But as a story, as a piece of poetry, it's a deep favorite for me. 

I think both, for me, represent something fundamental and pure about my feelings of the season.  Like: hey, here's a little bit of the magic of Christmas, and maybe, just maybe, experiencing it will make you a slightly better person. 

That's how I like to think of it, at least.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

TITANSHADE: The Debut You Should Get Next Year



Happy Thanksgiving, all!  Today I am thankful for all the love and joy that I have received this year, and especially in the last week.  PhilCon was a lovely time, and the folks running it were all wonderful.  Plus I got to see some old friends that I hadn't seen for decades, which was lovely as well.  And now I want to pay that love forward, by talking about a new debut that you should put on your radar.

I am talking about TITANSHADE by Dan Stout.  This book looks like a heck of a lot of fun.  When I read the description I jokingly called it Scorcesepunk, but it is a secondary world fantasy of tough street-cops in a world of 8-tracks, disco and sorcery.  It looks like everything you wanted Bright to be if it had been made in 1976.  I am deeply excited for this sucker to come out, and it will on MARCH 12th, 2019.  So GO PRE-ORDER THIS BABY.

This noir fantasy thriller from a debut author introduces the gritty town of Titanshade, where danger lurks around every corner.

Carter's a homicide cop in Titanshade, an oil boomtown where 8-tracks are state of the art, disco rules the radio, and all the best sorcerers wear designer labels. It's also a metropolis teetering on the edge of disaster. As its oil reserves run dry, the city's future hangs on a possible investment from the reclusive amphibians known as Squibs.

But now negotiations have been derailed by the horrific murder of a Squib diplomat. The pressure's never been higher to make a quick arrest, even as Carter's investigation leads him into conflict with the city's elite. Undermined by corrupt coworkers and falsified evidence, and with a suspect list that includes power-hungry politicians, oil magnates, and mad scientists, Carter must find the killer before the investigation turns into a witch-hunt and those closest to him pay the ultimate price on the filthy streets of Titanshade.
Happy Thanksgiving!  Give thanks, read books.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

PHILCON Bound

Hey all!  I'm off to PhilCon this weekend, and if you're around, please come say hello.  Here's my full schedule.   And what's my Special Presentation?  It's a surprise!  (But it'll involve a selection of readings.  And almost no Rat Pack singing.) 

Fri 8:00 PM in Plaza III (Three)—Fantasy Without Fantasy? How much actual supernaturalism or other fantastic elements (dragons, magic, elves, etc.) does a fantasy story require? There are examples of books marketed as fantasy, set in imaginary places, that contain no fantastic elements- How do they function within the genre?
Jim Stratton (mod), Ken Altabef, Sally Wiener Grotta, Carl Paolino, Marshall Ryan Maresca, Anna Kashina

Sat 10:00 AM in Plaza IV (Four)—DCEU: A Light at the End of the Tunnel? We all know that Warner Brothers has had a bit of the problem with their DCEU movies. But the latest trailers for Aquaman & SHAZAM look like they’re finally turning the page to a Brand New Day...
Barna William Donovan (mod), Marshall Ryan Maresca, Andre Lieven, Orenthal Hawkins

Sat 12:00 PM in Executive Suite 623—Readings: Saturday Noon Marshall Ryan Maresca (mod), Sally Wiener Grotta

Sat 1:00 PM in Grand Ballroom A—Presentation by Special Guest Marshall Ryan Maresca Marshall Ryan Maresca (mod)

Sat 4:00 PM in Plaza II (Two)—The City As a theme and an image in science fiction. Think of Ghost in the Shell, Blade Runner, New York 2140, and Metropolis. How does the nature of a city inform the stories set within it?
Carl Paolino (mod), Marshall Ryan Maresca, Tom Purdom, Kim Kindya, Eric Parmer, Ty Drago

Sat 5:00 PM in Autograph Table—Autographs: Saturday 5pm Marshall Ryan Maresca (mod), Chris Kreuter

Sat 10:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Two—Shows We’re (Still) Not Over The Endings Of Whether it was because of a surprise cancellation that left us with a massive cliffhanger, or the intentional plotting of a Machiavellian team of writers, some series ended in ways that- even years later- make us want to shriek. What finale left you agape?
Tony Finan (mod), Marshall Ryan Maresca, Alyce Wilson, Hildy Silverman, Tee Morris

Sun 11:00 AM in Plaza V (Five)—Writing A Film-Friendly Novel What elements should you keep in mind while writing a novel if you're hoping to eventually see it onscreen?
Richard Stout (mod), Elizabeth Crowens, Barna William Donovan, Marshall Ryan Maresca, Carl Paolino, Michael D'Ambrosio

Sun 1:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Three—When Less Is MoreWe've talked a lot over the years about how to avoid infodumping, or at least, giving your readers information in a way that is entertaining and easy to parse. But sometimes the question you ought to ask is not how to insert all the facts about the world you've built, but "is it necessary?"
Vikki Ciaffone (mod), Steven Brust, Marshall Ryan Maresca, Bernie Mojzes, Danielle Ackley-McPhail

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Embracing the Hostile Read

There's an old saying, "No text can survive a hostile read." 

I also like this exchange from the West Wing, when Sam Seaborn is told that a passage from a speech given by the First Lady has angered an activist group.
SAM: I don't see it.
CJ: You have to want it to see it.

Here's the thing about writing anything: everyone is going to come at it with their own biases, their own take.  Once you send it out into the world, you have no way to control how people are going to take it.  And, more specifically, if people are going to want to misread your text, bring their hostile read to you, you really have to just take it.

I'm not saying this to address any specific or recent review-- in fact I've been quite pleased with the recent reviews for THE WAY OF THE SHIELD-- but more as a sort of zen reminder that people will find the things that they connect to, that they can interpret with their own biases, and even though it doesn't match my intentions... that doesn't matter.

I'm kind of arguing for "the death of the author", I know, but the point is, all I can do is put it on the page.  If the reader finds something there I didn't intend, that's how it is.  In fact, I think it's great to embrace that, and see what I can learn.  Isn't that what it's about, after all?  Constantly trying to learn, grow and improve?

That's my goal, at least.
--
Hey, are you in the northeast?  What are you doing next weekend?  Me, I'm the Special Guest at PhilCon!  If you can, come on out, and come say hello!   

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Point of View and Trust

Point-of-View is one of those funny things writers get very worked up about.  And I’ve noticed, reading through some older books I have, making concrete POV choices is a relatively recent development.  I mean, yes, certainly, the distinction between first-person and third-person (and the rare second-person) was always clear.  But third-person was often more of a muddled third-person-omniscient instead of the discrete multi-person third-person-limited, where individual scenes have a clear POV character.  Even the idea of a “POV Violation” as a writing mistake seems to be a relatively new thing.

Because, let me tell you, a lot of classics are just loaded with POV Violations.

However, the standard today, when writing third-person multiple-POV is for clear, discrete definition of whose head your in for any given scene or chapter. George R. R. Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice books do this explicitly, telling you who the POV character is instead of a chapter title.  I hear a lot of “rules” of how to do a POV character, who can be one in your book and when you can let them be one.  I’m of the opinion that who can be one and when is whoever you need it to be for the scene, whenever you need that scene to be.   Frankly, one of my favorite bits in The Holver Alley Crew is when Mila steals the dress from the rich woman, because it's from the woman's POV.  She's just a one-off character, that scene alone, and some people will tell you it's against the "rules", but I say BAH.

My big thing with POV is trust.  Unless the Unreliable Narrator is a technique you’re utilizing, then you have to present your POV character in an honest way.  You have to have trust in that character and their engagement in the plot.

Now, that doesn’t mean the POV is limited to the “good guys”.  I love my antagonist POVs, as long as they are antagonists that I can trust are being honest with how they engage in the plot.  If I have a character who is against the hero privately, but acts as his friend, and I don’t want the reader to know that… then that character can’t be a POV character.  But if I want that betrayal clear, then that’s exactly who I want as POV.

This was especially hard for me in A Murder of Mages, which is probably my most constrained work, POV-wise, in that I only have Satrine and Minox as POV characters.   This is because, at its core, it’s a murder mystery, and if you go into the head of murderer, then the mystery is given up.  By limiting the POV to my two Inspectors, then the reader has the same set of data that they do.
In The Way of the Shield, it’s more complicated than that, but similar rules of not using a character for POV apply.  There are people whose motivation and trustworthiness I want the reader to keep in question, even in a subconscious way.  Ideally, when their truths come to light, it will hit the reader like a hammer, because they might not have even suspected it.  That's where a lot of the fun is.

Right now, I'm working on The Fenmere Joband I've imposed one rule regarding POV on myself for it, because I think it's the best choice for the story.  But I might decide over the course of things to break that.  If that's what's best.   We'll see. 

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Portrait of the Writer as an Odd Kid

So, let's talk a bit about Marshall Was A Weird Kid. 

(I know, you're probably shocked.)

Now, despite the fact that I spent a good chunk of time watching and rewatching a bunch of bad movies, I did, in fact, have other activities, including going to summer camps.  One of the day camps I went to regularly was structured thusly: it had two-week sessions, in which you would register for a single course, be it theatre or computers or filmmaking or auto mechanics or what have you.  Whatever you signed up for? That was your morning for the two weeks.  The afternoon, though, was a little more loosely structured, in that there were a handful of varied activities, and you chose, daily, which ones you were signing up for.  One of the most popular afternoon ones was the limited-capacity trip to the local state park for swimming, which my sister made a point of signing up for Every. Single. Day.

That?  Was not me.

In fact, my first year there, I was seven, which was itself a bit odd because the camp was for 8-14 year-olds, and I think my mother got an exception made for me because my sister was there as well.  So there I was, the only seven-year-old among older kids, looking at choices for afternoon activities, most of which were outdoorsy and/or athletic, to which I was nope.  But then one caught my eye.

Typing.

Seven-year-old me signed up for a goddamn typing class that was mostly populated by teenagers who were there for summer school (the camp was held on the campus of a private school), and I'm pretty sure I was the only one from the camp who signed up for it.  But I signed up for it EVERY SINGLE DAY of my first session there.

Every day. Typing. At the age of seven.  And this was 1980, so it was on a typewriter.  That's how and when I learned, and obviously it was a valuable skill that stuck with me.

BUT, since that's how and when I learned, you're just going to have to accept that a double-space after a period is simply embedded in my muscle memory.  It's there, and there's no dislodging it.  So there we are.