Guest Post: “I am Not in Control” by Joshua Palmatier

PalmatierJ-AuthorPicI’m certain nearly everyone who loves to read books and follows their favorite authors has heard those authors at some point say, “The character took control.” This is extremely common. In fact, with my own writing, if the characters don’t at some point take control and do unexpected things, then the book isn’t succeeding. The characters need to take on their own life for the author. If they aren’t doing that for the author, then they certainly aren’t coming to life for the reader. And that means the book has failed.

However, I want to talk about something a little more significant than a character suddenly revealing a lifelong passion for poisons, altering the plot and bringing in an added extra (darker?) layer to the character that you’d never considered. What I want to talk about is when the book takes control. Not just a character or set of characters, but the entire book. Continue reading

Guest Post: “How to Write a Book a Year, and Work Full Time” by William C. Dietz

dietzwc-authorpicI had always wanted to write a novel, and with luck, publish it. And for some reason I chose age 40 as my deadline. But the years passed and, on the day when I turned 39, I hadn’t written a single page. There were numerous reasons for that not the least of which was the fact that I had a demanding job, a wife, and two children.

What to do? Should I slip the deadline to 50? Give up? Or make the book happen somehow. I chose option three. All you have to do is write one page a day, I reasoned (about 300 words), and you’ll have a rough draft 365 days later! (300 words a day x 365 = 109,500 words.) And guess what? It worked. The book (Galactic Bounty) sold right away. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Culture As Weapon” by Yoon Ha Lee

When I conceived of the Andan faction of the hexarchate, I saw them as beautiful, rich, and cultured. In particular, I saw them as the people who weaponize culture. Raven Stratagem depicts a major Andan character for the first time, and while she’s somewhat atypical (she went into special ops against her mother’s wishes), she hasn’t entirely escaped her early training.

Years ago, when I was in college, I borrowed some of my boyfriend’s Robotech tie-in novels. I went online (as one does) and looked up more information on Robotech on the internet, and found an interesting essay that questioned the novels’ portrayal of singer Lynn Minmei and her songs as a cultural weapon. I’m sorry I can’t link you to the essay; cursory Googling has failed to turn it up and, as it’s been something like fifteen years, I have no idea if it’s even still on the web. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Write what you know… even if that’s just being an idiot” by Tom Lloyd

Write what you know, it’s the first piece of advice a writer will get. It’s sometimes useful too. After eight years and almost a decade as a published novelist, I was starting a new series and so I asked myself what I’d learned, what I liked and what I wanted for the next few years. But this time round I wasn’t some newbie, I was a wise and skilled crafter of words who utters profound witticisms as he works the room of industry types, right?

Much to my disappointment that clearly wasn’t the case. I was pretty much the same damn fool I’ve always been. Well meaning, stubborn not the cleverest, getting on a bit with something of a food preoccupation – not without some skill but not ever likely to be one of the biggest and brightest stars in the sky. So hey, write what you know? Continue reading

Guest Post: “What’s in a Name?” by Simon Bestwick

bestwicks-authorpicI have the devil’s own luck when it comes to titles, at least as far as that there Jonathan Oliver at Solaris is concerned.

The new book, The Feast Of All Souls, is the third I’ve written for Jon. The first, for Abaddon Books, is the only one where the title wasn’t an issue: Tide Of Souls.

Tide was published in 2009: fast forward to 2011, when I pitched Jon a novel called Ghosts Of War. He liked the story and commissioned it, but suggested a different title, quite reasonably pointing out that Ghosts Of War gave away the plot. Continue reading

Quick Review: THRILL ME by Benjamin Percy (Graywolf Press)

percyb-thrillmeAn excellent writing memoir and book of advice

Anyone familiar with the meteoric rise of Benjamin Percy’s career will surely have noticed a certain shift: After writing two short-story collections and a literary novel, he delivered the werewolf thriller Red Moon and the postapocalyptic epic The Dead Lands. Now, in his first book of nonfiction, Benjamin Percy challenges the notion that literary and genre fiction are somehow mutually exclusive. The title essay is an ode to the kinds of books that make many first love fiction: science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, horror, from J. R. R. Tolkien to Anne Rice, Ursula K. Le Guin to Stephen King. Percy’s own academic experience banished many of these writers in the name of what is “literary” and what is “genre.” Then he discovered Michael Chabon, Aimee Bender, Cormac McCarthy, Margaret Atwood, and others who employ techniques of genre fiction while remaining literary writers. In fifteen essays on the craft of fiction, Percy looks to disparate sources such as Jaws, Blood Meridian, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to discover how contemporary writers engage issues of plot, suspense, momentum, and the speculative, as well as character, setting, and dialogue. An urgent and entertaining missive on craft, Thrill Me brims with Percy’s distinctive blend of anecdotes, advice, and close reading, all in the service of one dictum: Thrill the reader.

Benjamin Percy is one of my favourite “new” authors. I only discovered his work upon the publication of Red Moon, which gripped me from very early on. Since reading that novel, I’ve read everything of his that I could get my hands on — The Dead Lands, his two-part story for Detective Comics, his ongoing run on Green Arrow, and now Thrill Me. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this book, but I came away entertained and inspired. Continue reading

Quick Review: ZEN IN THE ART OF WRITING by Ray Bradbury (Voyager)

bradburyr-zenintheartofwritingukA collection of articles and essays from the author of Fahrenheit 451

In this exuberant book, the incomparable Ray Bradbury shares the wisdom, experience, and excitement of a lifetime of writing.

The first thing a writer should be is – excited

Author of the iconic FAHRENHEIT 451, THE ILLUSTRATED MAN and THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, Ray Bradbury is one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century.

Part memoir, part masterclass, ZEN IN THE ART OF WRITING offers a vivid and exuberant insight into the craft of writing. Bradbury reveals how writers can each find their own unique path to developing their voice and style.

ZEN IN THE ART OF WRITING offers a celebration of the act of writing that will delight, impassion, and inspire.

I picked this up on a whim the other week, while enjoying a books-about-writing binge. The prolific Bradbury seemed like a good bet for an interesting book about writing, and I wasn’t disappointed. This is a lively (perhaps almost hyperactive, in some sections) about the joy of fiction and writing. It is not a how-to book, although there is plenty of general advice. Continue reading