Tag Archives: Weekly Writers’ Ramble

Weekly Writers’ Ramble: October 17, 2014

Today we have J. F. Lewis visiting. The author of the Void City series and the new Grudgebearer Trilogy, he’s here to discuss his characters and how they came to be.
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People often ask me where I get my ideas, especially those for the new Grudgebearer Trilogy. My new answer is: What do Final Fantasy 7, Macbeth, Slavery, NPR, and Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson have in common?

The Grudgebearer Trilogy. Even if you’ve already read the first book, Grudgebearer, you may not immediately see how I got from Points A – E to Point F… which is the great thing about writing. Everything a writer sees, does, reads, or hears winds up in the soup. At ConCarolinas one year, Allen Wold was asked by an aspiring author whether he ever put people he knew into his stories. Allen’s answer was the best I’ve heard any writer give. He said (as best I can remember), “If I do my job well, every person I have ever met will wind up in my writing, but they will never know and neither will I.”

Ideas comes from everywhere and writers file off the serial numbers, change things around, and make them our own. Some ideas are hard to trace, but… Every now and again, the writer can figure out the trail. Barrone, the world in which Grudgebearer is set, first started to form in my head when, after playing through Final Fantasy 7, my friend Richard decided to run a role playing game. We talked about characters and as we went along, a winged assassin named Caius Vindalious began to emerge. When I first started writing in the world of the Grudgebearer Trilogy, he was the main protagonist, but the world wasn’t done cooking yet.

I’ve written numerous drafts of various novels set in this universe over the years, but they didn’t start to include the Aern, my race of nigh-immortal carnivorous former slaves, until I heard the title track to Bruce Dickinson’s Tyranny of Souls album in 2005. You may note, this was long before I wrote Staked, ReVamped, Crossed, Burned, or A Corpse of Mistaken Identity. My story mill sometimes takes a while before it is ready to start generating novels about a character.

Tyranny of Souls begins with a quote from the opening of Macbeth:

“When shall we three meet again? In thunder, lightning, or in rain?

When the hurly-burly’s done, when the battle’s lost and won.”

So… there’s your Macbeth, but the next line is:

“A tyranny of souls.”

That is where the Grand Conjunction and the concept that three races had to meet every one hundred years at a black obelisk to renew their peace popped into my head. It was an idea I jotted down and later discarded. But it was one to which I kept returning. One of the final ingredients struck when I heard a news story about reparations for slavery on NPR and it occurred to me how much worse attempting to right such an horrific injustice would be if those who had been enslaved were immortal… the same exact people, still around.

Imagine further that you didn’t just need to find a way to apologize to your victims, but to enlist their aid. Add in a holocaust denier, a dragon, and well… Once I started down that line of thought, the Aern, the Vael, and the Eldrennai began to form. It would take me nine years to sort it all out and get the world right, but I knew Caius’s story would have to wait because Kholster’s story came first. So… where do ideas comes from? Final Fantasy 7, Macbeth, Slavery, NPR, and Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson… and everywhere else. Obviously!

You can track down @jf_lewis at jflewis.net and, though the author recommends you order Grudgebearer at your friendly local bookstore, you can also order a copy at Amazon.

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Weekly Writers’ Ramble: October 10, 2014

I’m kicking off this round of Weekly Writers’ Ramble with a discussion of crafting characters. Stay tuned for next week when J.F. Lewis drops in to tell us about his new book “Grudgeberer” and how he came up with the hero.

In fiction there are generally two broad classifications of stories. One is action driven stories and the other is character driven stories. While there can be overlap, usually a story falls into one camp or another. A good example of the former that comes to mind would be Ray Bradbury’s short story, “There Will Come Soft Rains”. The story is more about the atmosphere and events than any specific character. It’s one I read in middle school and since it was still the Cold War era, it left an impression that has lasted to this day.

Character driven fiction involves the growth or change of characters and how events shape that change. When it comes to my own fiction, I write primarily character driven fiction. Stuff happens, but it is the characters which make the story.

Remember, there is no one right way to create a character. There are oodles of how-to books and whatever method that works for you is fine. Some people craft their characters as rough outlines of people they know. Others follow a D&D sort of approach. Some might sketch their character, or interview them.

My approach is a bit more nebulous than that and harks back to my fondness for make-believe as a child. As I think about a story idea, more often than not a character simply starts coalescing in my mind. Tala, from Fated Bonds, marched into my head, suited up in her police uniform and with a no-nonsense attitude. She’s “Law and Order” meets urban fantasy. Her past, present, and future got worked out as I went, the same as when I played space aliens with my siblings and I was the alien queen that had to  lead my army to victory.

So for me, finding my characters involves opening that door in my mind  and stepping back to my childhood. I suppose I can credit “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” for my fondness of make-believe and for teaching me that  it was not something that was just for little kids. While the stories I write are generally adult in nature, it’s that same “let’s pretend” state of mind. As such, some characters are harder to write. The farther outside of my experience, the darker, crueler, or more twisted, it takes more effort for me to put on their persona as I write them. I’ve found that the more I write and read, the easier this becomes.

Feel free to comment on how you craft your characters, or what it is about your favorite literary or genre characters that makes them so real to you.

If you’re interested in meeting my characters, wander over to Amazon and slip between the digital (or hard copy) pages of my books.

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Weekly Writers’ Ramble: Interview on Audiobooks

This month’s topic is audiobooks. Seeing as how the last book I experienced that way was a kids’ read-along abridged version of the Star Wars series, I decided to interview someone I knew who mentioned a fondness for Audible, the i-Tunes of the audiobook market.

As a reader, what do you see as the top pros and cons of audiobooks?

The best thing about audiobooks is the ability to multitask while listening. I can listen to a book in the car or while I’m doing housework or walking my dog. The downside of that is decreased immersion. When I’m curled up on the couch reading a good book, everything else disappears. I am there in that story’s world. I can’t get that absorbed while I’m driving or dusting.

What is your favorite? Beyond the story itself, was there anything in particular that made it your favorite?

The Fault in our Stars by John Green, narrated by Kate Rudd. I have never read this book, but I’ve listened to it a dozen times. I feel like I wouldn’t have enjoyed it nearly as much if I had read it first. It’s full of pretentious teenager dialogue that, on paper, makes me cringe. But Kate Rudd’s excellent narration adds a layer to the characters and makes them likable in ways I don’t think would have come across in plain text.

Worst one? Again, was it story or medium that made it so?

Listening to a bad book is way more tedious than reading one (because at least with paper you can quickly skip the boring parts.) I can’t think of the “worst” but there are several I never got all the way through. Funnily, one of those was also by John Green. He co-wrote Will Grayson with David Levithan and they each had written a book I enjoyed, so I figured together they’re probably pretty good. But it missed the mark for me. In this case, I think the narration only made the pretentious teenage dialogue more grating. It’s very possible I’d enjoy it more if I read it, rather than listened to it (but I’ll probably never find out.)

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As a writer, I find it odd to read my work out loud, but it definitely serves to highlight stilted dialogue. Some voices, say  James Earl Jones, could read me a grocery list and I’d enjoy it. Others, gah, Stop, PLEASE! On the whole, though, my avoidance of audiobooks, despite the multi-tasking attraction, is that I want to leave behind this world while I’m reading a book.

What’s your take on audiobooks?

Weekly Writers’ Ramble: Bobby Nash

UPDATE: Because the day job has apparently eaten my brain, I left out material in the initial post AND the title. This has been remedied.

Today we welcome Bobby Nash as our author guest, and the last for this months topic.

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PROS AND CONS OF CONS

I love a good con.

Not the kind where someone steals all my money though. Those are only fun to watch on TV or in the movies. What I love are conventions. From the small one-day shows to the big four day events, conventions invigorate me as a creator even as they wear me out as a person. When H.C. asked me to make a list of the pros and cons of attending cons, I leapt at the chance.

The Pros:

1. Meeting the Pro’s. As a creator myself, I love talking with other creative people and the convention is a great place to meet like minded peers, fans, and friends alike. Some of the best relationships I’ve made are with people I first met at a convention.

2. Finding out what’s new or uncovering something you didn’t even know existed. Conventions are great ways for local and lesser-known creators to get their works in front of potential fans. As a writer, I love introducing people to my work. With so many different books out there, conventions are a good place to see what else is out there. More often than not you’ll find a few gems you didn’t even know you were looking for.

3. Travel. I love to travel and attending conventions has allowed me to visit places I might not have had the opportunity otherwise.

4. Getting out of the house. I know this sounds like a joke, but it’s not. Writing is a rather solitary job and I spend so much of my time in a room alone with my laptop. Stepping into a convention center with a few thousand of my closest friends is a nice refreshing change of pace to my sitting alone in my office for days and weeks at a time.

5. Cosplay, fans, and fun. Cosplayers, fans, actors, writers, artists, etc. are there to work, but also to have fun. The evening events at conventions are a fun time to socialize outside of the dealer’s room where people can hang without trying to sell stuff. It’s a great time for photos, chatting over drinks, or just hanging out. Have fun and introduce yourself to someone new. Just don’t stop in the hallways or at the top of escalators for photos. That leads to disaster.

The Cons:

1. Conventions are expensive. All of the cool things like paying for a badge or a table, food, hotel, travel, books, supplies, and whatever you see at the con that you just have to buy can eat up a good bit of cash so you have to be prepared. Budget is key. I usually try to carpool and/or split a room with someone when I can. That certainly helps out with those expenses.

2. Crowds. As cons continue to grow in popularity, the crowds grow right along with them. If you don’t like crowds, this is something you’ll have to bear in mind.

3. Know your surroundings. I mentioned earlier taking photos. Be aware of where you’re standing when you ask for a photo. Blocking doors, stairs, and escalators never ends well and either creates a back up or a collision. Just take a moment to step away from the walkways.

4. Dehydration. Drink plenty of water. This is key. Also, at least once a day, take a shower. Cons are hot and sweaty.

These are just a few of the pros and cons of attending a convention. Personally, I think the pros definitely outweigh the cons. No matter what convention you go to, try to have a good time. Remember, the people working the dealer’s room, panels, booths, etc. are there to have a good time like everyone else, but they are also working so check out their stuff and say hello.

I’m often asked what kind of con people should attend. That’s a tough one as there are so many different kinds of conventions out there for many different fandoms.

There are smaller one day shows that are usually more laid back with little stress. These are usually shows where you shop with a handful of guests you can meet, usually writers, artists, or actors.

Hotel shows are generally relaxi-cons, which means they run day and night over the course of a weekend. Look for a good number of parties in the evenings, plenty of opportunities for meeting your fellow fans.

Convention Center Cons take place during the day in a convention center. That means the evening is usually unscheduled, although if there is a hotel attached to the con, it’s probably where most folks from the con will hang out in the evening. In other cases, people scatter when the convention closes down for the day, depending on the venue.

No matter which type of show you want to attend, check their website first to see who is there you want to meet, what panels you would like to attend, things like that. Have a plan, but be flexible. It is impossible to do everything at the cons.

Most of all, no matter which con you attend, have fun.

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About Bobby Nash:

From his secret lair in the wilds of Bethlehem, Georgia, 2013 Pulp Ark Award Winning Best Author, Bobby Nash writes a little bit of everything including novels, comic books, short prose, graphic novels, screenplays, media tie-ins, and more.

Between writing deadlines, Bobby is an actor and extra in movies and television, including appearances in Deviant Pictures’ Fat Chance, FOX’s The Following, USA’s Satisfaction, AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire, and more. He is also the co-host of the Earth Station One podcast (www.esopodcast.com) and a member of the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers and International Thriller Writers.

Bobby was named Best Author in the 2013 Pulp Ark Awards, his first professional writing award. Rick Ruby, a character co-created by Bobby and author Sean Taylor also snagged a Pulp Ark Award for Best New Pulp Character of 2013. Bobby was also nominated for the 2014 New Pulp Awards and Pulp Factory Awards for his work.

To find out more about Bobby Nash, visit his blog
or his website.

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Weekly Writers’ Ramble: Teel James Glenn

Today I bring you award winning author, Mr. Teel James Glenn, sharing his take on cons.
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Pros and Cons of cons

-Teel James Glenn

 

Conventions are fun, no one can deny that, but for people who want to make it in the writing world they are also work.

When you think about it, science fiction conventions were started by a group of fans in the 1930s who formed groups like the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society or the Futurians who were fans of Hugo Gernsback’s science fiction and science magazine. He connected fans who wrote in to the letter columns.

Many of those fans went on to become the great writers of the era-Julie Schwartz, Ray Bradbury and others. They always acknowledged their roots in the ‘fan’ world, even before the term was really coined.

I’ve been going to conventions since the 1970s, first as a fan myself, and watched them evolve from small gatherings of a hundred or two of fans of comics or Sci Fi to the mega conventions of today where a hundred and fifty thousand people jam into a convention center.

Why keep going to conventions as a professional writer?Well, to quote the famous safe bank robber Jimmy Valentine when he was asked why he robbed banks, “‘Cause that’s where the money is!”

Mind you, it is not so crass as to be walking around with a sandwich board proclaiming your latest book-(though that is not necessarily a bad thing)-But from the moment you walk into a con till the moment you leave you have to consider that you are ‘on stage’- performing as your writer persona. You are there to be seen!

This can be a hard thing for many writers, who are, after all mostly solitary creatures, yet, the target audience for your work- be it romance writing, mystery stories, fantasy, science fiction, that convention crowd is there because they love the exact type of writing you do.

So what do you do if not wear that sandwich board? You write to the con and try to get on panels so people can see and hear you. You go to the panels of writes/editors you like and ask questions and in an un-creepy-I’m-a -colleague- way chat with them after the panels.

If you can afford it, of course, it is a good thing to get a table at the con- it is a great way to chat people up and push your books. If you don’t have a ‘support staff’ of friends who can relieve you at the table it can be a trap-i.e.- you are stuck behind that table when you want to get to panels to meet other pros or see events you want to see.

Of course, any one of these ways to ‘present’ yourself at a con could make that contact with an editor, agent or even fellow writer that lets you in on a new anthology or market looking for stories. All of them give you a pretty good shot at advancing your career.

The thing to remember is that, while it is a place to have fun for fans it can be a springboard for you as a professional writer so be on your best behavior- people remember if you are a jerk and (I’ve heard) that editors are people.

One side bar to all this is that lots of deals and meetings happen in the hotel bar. If you drink (and I don’t so I don’t have this problem), do so under you limit. Keep your head about you so you can make those deals and retain the details of the business conversations you do hear!

If you’d like to find out more about Mr. Teel Glenn, you can meander over to his blog or website. If you have questions, feel free to post in the comments section!

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Weekly Writers’ Ramble: Kimberly Richardson

I know. I know. I’m late. From Ph.D. candidacy exams, wonky internet connections, Miss Drama’s birthday party, and family in from out of town, I simply did not get to my blogging duties. I apologize. I shall strive NOT to channel my inner white rabbit with the other posts.

So here, without any further ado, is our guest, Ms. Kimberly Richardson, author of “Tales from a Goth Librarian” and “The Decembrists”.

The Pros and Cons of Cons

– Kimberly B. Richardson

When I first heard about cons oh so many years ago, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Was this some secret society kind of thing in which a goat and black robes would be part of the festivities? I was amazed (and relieved!) to find that cons were not like that; they were, in fact, a weekend in which freaks, geeks, gamers, nerds, cosplayers, Goths, Steampunkers, and other awesome people come together and revel in all things ultra-cool and ultra-not normal. At last, I thought as I walked into the Dealer’s Room at MidSouth Con in Memphis, Tennessee years ago – I have found my people. Now that I am a guest at conventions, I still get that thrill whenever I pull into the hotel parking lot, wondering just what to expect and realizing that it is never what I expect, which is a good thing.

So, may I present to you my Pros and Cons of Cons!

Pros:

The biggest and most obvious pro is that . . . it’s a freakin’ CON! Where else can you go to watch costumed people walk by in all their freakish glory, or, while wearing a World of Warcraft shirt, have someone run up to you and scream “Glory to the HORDE!” And yes, that second thing really does happen to me. A lot. So much so that my publisher actually has bets in the length of time we WoWers find each other. Basically put, a con is a great way to make new friends who share your interests, hang out with old ones and catch up with their dealings, meet celebrities of whatever “thing” you’re into, watch talented artists create fantastical masterpieces before your very eyes and even enjoy some down time with a deck of Magic the Gathering cards, beer or other liquid refreshment and friends until the crack of dawn. A con is a place to be yourself, whatever that may be, and find relief in the fact that there are others out there just like you.

Another pro of cons is that it is a great source of creativity, ready to fuel your own ideas and put them into action. Have you always wanted to learn how to draw but had no idea how and where to begin? What about that awesome fantasy novel you’ve got stuck in your head that you’ve wanted to write out? Got an idea for a costume yet not really sure where to even begin? All of these and many more can be answered at a con, for it is at a con that you can meet and spend time with authors and publishers, artists, costumers, game designers and the like. All are there as celebrities, of course, yet they also offer advice for those who want to know more. I’ve had many a conversation with a young writer who wants to do what I do, yet they have no idea how to even take that first step. And, time and time again, I grin and begin my talk with them, hoping that perhaps something I will say will cause the spark to go off in their mind and give them the push that they need.

Now, it’s time to talk about the CONS of con:

One con is that sometimes, there are some people that do attend these cons for ulterior motives. Sometimes, through alcohol or other things, they can become a problem for the rest of those who are there to have a good time. If you happen to find a certain person interesting and cool in that they possibly share similar interests, just be careful and mindful because you just never know. On a side note, please be respectful of others who are at the con to enjoy themselves. Just sayin’.

Another con is the shortness of time. Sure, they do last a weekend and that seems like a long time, right? So much time to do EVERYTHING! Wrong! By the time you are in your con groove, the vendors are packing up, the signs are being taken down and the hotel is asking when you’re going to pay your bill. It would be lovely, sometimes, to have the con extend for at least one or two additional days, like Dragon Con in Atlanta, Georgia, yet sadly enough all good things must come to an end. However, one thing that I like to do before the post con depression kicks in is that I begin planning for the next con. Always works.

So, there you have my Pros and Cons of cons. I hope you have enjoyed my words and I hope your con experiences have been very, very good so far. And, if you happen to be attending a con that I’m at, please stop by and say hello!

Now, on to the next CON!

If you’d like to find out more about Kimberly Richardson, you can find her on her blogFacebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.
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