Archives for June 2011

Sin Meets Mark Richards

No, wait, it isn’t insanity. Is it?

Please take a look at this fascinating blog post, written by my good buddy Shaun Allan, author of Sin. It seems that Mark Richards, the hero of my book Second Death, has encountered Sin. See what he thinks of Mark.

Sin is next on my reading list after I finish The Coming Storm by Valerie Douglas.

Holding On and Letting Go

I spend a lot of time exercising these days (yay, me!), or maybe it just seems that way. I go to a personal trainer twice a week, because it was the only way I could get my 51-year-old stubborn mind to convince my overweight body to improve itself. Yesterday I was riding the recumbent bike while another woman walked on the treadmill a few feet away. What struck me most was that she wasn’t holding onto anything as she walked at a fairly brisk speed.

The treadmill doesn’t scare me as much as it did a month ago when I started going to the trainer. The first time I was on it, though, I was a little freaked out by the speed at which I was walking and the fact that it just…kept…going. My legs were getting tired, so I thought I’d rest a bit. Instead of mashing one of the two prominent red buttons labeled STOP, I stepped onto the side—and promptly fell. A nice man on the elliptical turned it off for me while I nursed my injured knee. Since then, I hang on for dear life.

I told the woman when she finished on the treadmill that I was impressed by her ability to walk without holding on. She said, “Oh, I’ve been coming here for two months now, so I’ve gotten used to it. You’ll get used to it too.” In that month’s difference, she’d been able to let go, not just of the handles, but of her fear, too.

I find myself writing a lot lately about fear. I’ve been learning from my therapist to overcome the anxiety that’s plagued me much of my life, and the process has made me realize what a destructive force fear is. I won’t truly progress in exercising if I allow fear to hold me back. The more experience I gain, the more my confidence builds. It’s true in so many areas of life, and particularly in writing. Writing requires a certain amount of confidence in one’s own ability. After all, when we write, we’re spilling our emotions and experiences and life essence out for all to see. We’re making ourselves vulnerable. Vulnerability is uncomfortable enough around friends, much less strangers who don’t know us except through our writing, and are judging whether they should’ve spent the money on our work or not.

Holding on to the handles of the treadmill has its value, but if I hold on for too long, I know I won’t get the full benefit of the exercise. At some point I have to let go, take the risk, and not let fear hold me back from reaching my full potential. Yeah, I’ll probably fall at some point, but it’s better than if I didn’t try at all.

Let me know in the comments how you overcome fear in your own writing experience.

Test from Live Writer

Live Writer is a program that allows you to post to your blog from just about anywhere. Ooo, blogging from Mount Everest! Right, like I’d go there to blog. My most exotic blog location is, um, my office at work. Hey, I live dangerously. Those cats have sharp claws. And hungry bellies.

Just sayin’.

This test post has been brought to you by StreamOConsciousness, the smart brand of consciousness for those who dare not censor their brains. Buy StreamOConsciousness today! (Warning: StreamOConsciousness has been tested on animals. Well, just cats.)

I Like My Steam with Pulp!

Thanks go out to Hugh Ashton for prompting this topic! We were explaining steampunk on a thread in the Indie Authors Group on Facebook, when I brought up the term “steampulp,” coined by my friend and sometimes collaborator Scott Carter. Hugh was kind enough to write about the term in his blog, so I’m returning the favor.

Steampunk itself is an unknown term to many people, but as a genre it’s starting to make its way into the public consciousness via movies such as Sherlock Holmes. Even our local magazine, b Metro, featured a steampunk photo shoot at Sloss Furnace back in February of this year. The term refers to a fantasy genre usually set in a dystopian Victorian era Britain or America, characterized by an industrial timeline in which Victorian “tech” is extended into the future. Gadgets and engines are prevalent. K.W. Jeter is credited with the invention of this genre (to describe his and Tim Powers’ books, notably the wonderful The Anubis Gates), but The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling popularized it. Cherie Priest is my favorite writer in this genre, with  her Clockwork Century books. In them, the Civil War is still going on, being fought with engines of destruction. Books in the genre aren’t necessarily set in England or America. China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station and The Iron Council (and others) are certainly steampunk, but are set in a fictional world.

So what is steampulp? It’s steampunk, but without the dystopian view. There are no underground factions struggling against tyranny (the “punk” in steampunk). It’s lighter in tone, with the feel of old pulp serials (like Doc Savage and The Shadow). Larger than life heroes and villains predominate, and above all, there’s wonderful tech. Airships and steamships and steam trains steal the spotlight, providing transportation and escape routes and thrilling platforms for fights. My forthcoming novel The Source of Lightning is one of these. It is set in America, centering around the Great Airship Flap of  1897. Another is Red Wheels Turning, by the aforementioned Hugh Ashton, set in pre-revolutionary Russia.

Let’s hear it for steampulp!

In fact, I’d like to hear from  you with your thoughts on steampulp and other examples in this new genre, in the comments below.

3 Reasons You Should Edit Your Book Before You e-Publish It

One of my superpowers is spotting errors in grammar, spelling and word usage (and you know that means I’ll make a mistake in this post by saying that). I’m really irked by misspelled words in printed books. I find even less excuse for such errors in electronic books, because of the ease with which the author can use spelling/grammar checking and upload a new version. One of my dearest friends is an editor by profession; I truly believe a molecule of her soul is ripped from her when she sees errors in printed or electronic documents (if, indeed, “molecule” is a unit making up the soul).

But, you know, I’ve worked in academia all my working career, and have a library degree. So maybe (I hear you saying, as apparently I have phenomenal hearing) I’m just a tad too picky. In my defense, I suggest these reasons why you should edit (or have someone else edit) your book before you post it to your e-platform of choice.

  1. Respect for the reader. The person who purchases your e-book and reads it is carving time out of her busy life to share the world you’ve created. If you don’t care enough about your book to shape it into the best narrative you possibly can, why should she care about reading it?
  2. Courtesy toward the reader. Ever have that sensation where you’re reading smoothly along, enjoying the action, terrified for the hero, caught up in the romance and passion–and suddenly your eye lurches? You mentally say, “Huh?” (I often say it out loud.) A phrasing struck you wrong, you encounter a misspelled word. That error takes the reader out of the moment just as surely as if the phone rang. Help the reader stay in the experience you crafted for her.
  3. Pride in your craft. Writing is a learning experience. It’s highly unlikely you’ll write a best seller the first time you put quill to parchment–er, dark pixels to white pixels. You hone your craft through practice, reading websites, discussing with other writers. Show your growth by taking care of the basics first. The Indie Author Group on Facebook has a wonderful list of basic things to look out for in your writing.

Invest the time in your craft. You’ll be glad you did.

Let me know your take on editing, in the comments below.