Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Future!

We have powerful handheld computers that let us access a global information database, find our exact coordinates, translate languages in real-time, and make video calls to the other side of the world. We've taken photos of every planet in the solar system, many at close range—including Mercury from orbit. Heck, we've taken photos of planets that aren't even in our solar system! We can transmute elements and create antimatter. We're closing in on the technology to get us to Mars and beyond, and may be able to clone extinct species in the near future.

And yet, if you're anything like me, this is commonplace. We read a news article or hear something from a friend, and our first reaction is, "Oh, that's nice" or "Oh, that's cool" rather than "We can do that? Seriously?" There's so much futuristic stuff in our lives that it's normal. If that's not the definition of the future, what is?

Fortunately, there's still pioneering technology and ahead-of-the-curve science that can wow us, if we let it. Stuff that might be everywhere in ten, twenty, thirty years. Stuff that's inspiring to look at, to think about, to watch. Here are some of my recent faves. What are yours?

Monday, March 28, 2011

What Makes a Strong Woman?

In the internet circles I travel in, it's hard to avoid running into feminist discussions, reviews of books with strong female characters, critiques of mass media's portrayal of women primarily as sex objects, so on, so forth. And while I'm a feminist, I'm not a Feminist, and so don't tend to enter in the discussion. I'm not confident enough in my knowledge of feminist politics, feminist history, and the current discussions of feminism online to do so. I'm always afraid that something I say will be a) stupid b) unhelpful c) coming back to haunt me when I'm published.

But. I really enjoy books and movies with strong women, and I enjoy writing strong women, and I've wanted to write this post for a while. Today feels like the day to do it. Nothing to do with internet circles. Just my mood.

The way I see it, there are two types of female characters. There's the woman who's written to a stereotype and/or a male fantasy, who's defined on some level by men, and there's the woman who's written without being defined and without being a stereotype, and who therefore comes across as an actual person. And Stereotype Woman comes in two types. She's either an actual stereotype, such as the nosy neighbour, the unsatisfied wife, the ditz, or the whore, or she's dressed in leather and spandex, given weapons and weapons training, and pointed at bad guys. There seems to be a subset of humanity who believes that a physically tough, highly sexualized woman in bondage gear is strong without needing motives, backstory, or a personality. Which is not to say that those kinds of women aren't occasionally fun to watch or read, but I wouldn't call them strong the way I'd call the Real Women strong.

The qualities that make a strong woman are hard to pin down. I'd say "All strong women are confident in themselves and dominant in relationships", the way a lot of urban fantasy heroines are, except I've seen female characters who are submissive, who lack confidence, who I wouldn't call weak. Most of those women are trying to get out of their situations, which I think is what makes them strong. Of course, both these types, and many more, are found in reality, so why not put them in fiction? Is a woman who takes matters into her own hands the only kind of strong?

Maybe, for one definition of the word. A woman who doesn't cave under pressure, who fights back and takes names, is the kind of "strong woman" we generally think of. I like these women. They're all kinds of awesome. But there's another definition of "strong" that also applies, and that's "well-crafted". Writers can easily create* realistic-feeling women who don't fight. A housewife who's not confined by cleaning, cooking, and children, who has hobbies, a social life, and political opinions, who's content to be background to her husband because she's an introvert and being dominant doesn't work for her. Or a cashier at the supermarket who has a horrible boss and hates her job, but still goes to work because her diabetes meds and student loans don't pay for themselves. They're strong too, just not the same kind of badass as the woman with the samurai sword who knows them.

Now, obviously writers can't develop every single woman in a story into a Real Woman. The minor characters who only get a scene or a passing mention don't need to be fleshed out to the same degree and can certainly be stereotypes or described in a phrase. Large amounts of detail for all characters is overwhelming and detracts from the protagonist's awesomeness. But, in my opinion, if a female character has more than a couple lines, or appears in several scenes, or has some affect on the plot, she should be a Real Woman.

Crap, you're thinking, I've got Stereotype Women all over this story! Breathe. That's fixable. Did you notice how I took common character types (the housewife, the bitter cashier) and added details? You simply need to give the stereotypes a background, or hobbies, or tastes, or any combination thereof, and you'll be better off than you were. I generally do this by taking a character type and adding in a couple unexpected but not-implausible details. A cat lady could be a former spy. A typical ditz-shopper type could be gay, or have a soft spot for alien invasion flicks, or be a hard-nosed reporter playing dumb for a scoop. The trophy wife may have married for money, but she's using it to save the Amazon rainforest and rehabilitate animals, not to increase her chest size or have a room full of shoes. … Suddenly they're a lot more real, no?

So watch for strong women, in books, movies, television, and reality. Celebrate them, because they're needed. And when you're writing, if you're a writer, try to put as many in as possible, and always ask, "Can I make this character female? Can I make her real, not a stereotype?" Because the answer's "Yes" more often than you think.

* Well, for a certain definition of 'easy'.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Guilty Pleasures and Being Yourself

Anyone who knows me reasonably well knows that I delight in being a bad influence. Ice cream for breakfast? A new outfit you can't quite afford? A story you don't think you can write? I say go for it! I've introduced people to Firefly, Discworld, Neil Gaiman, Supernatural, and Doctor Who with wild success, and they even thank me! This is awesome.

You see, a large part of my life philosophy is to live for the moment and do what I want, when I want. Within reason, of course. I'm not binging or spending $500 on clothes in a day or anything. But little things, I'm fine with, and I have absolutely no shame*. I bought the X-Men movies a couple days ago, partly because of the Year of the Superhero project and partly because I enjoyed all three a lot. I don't care who sees me reading YA or graphic novels on the bus. I have worn a Jayne Hat in public. I like Lady Gaga. I think more people should be proud of what they like and take criticism of their tastes lightly. It's certainly made me happier.

Giving in to your desires is a good thing, in my books. You get in touch with yourself, you have fun, you relax, you release your inner child. Adults are supposed to be mature, busy, and responsible, and I'm all for that, too, but really, we can't be serious people 24-7. It's boring and stifling and stressful. We need to recharge, and what better way than to do something you want to and know you shouldn't, or something that embarrasses you. You don't have to do it in public if you don't want. I'm not going to treat the world to my lip-synched dances to ABBA. I have respect for my fellow humans.

This goes for writing as well. Paranormal YA may be hot these days and women's lit may be more socially acceptable, but if you really want to write horror-comedies, then do so and don't force yourself into a genre you don't enjoy. If you want to write a book with a half-centaur, half-mermaid pirate airship captain, go for it, especially if you're more excited about that book than the one you're working on.*** You never know what'll happen, and you'll be truer to yourself.

So next time you catch yourself saying, "No, I can't do that", say, "Yes, I can, why not?" and then don't answer the question. Play on that swing set. Buy that action figure. Attend that convention. Write that book. Enjoy yourself. Have fun.

*Actually, that's not true. I downplay my fannishness for my parents and I can't quite justify buying geeky tees because I can't wear them to work.**
** I'm totally buying a bunch for my book tours, though.
*** Except if Important People are expecting the one you're working on soon. Then start outlining the centaur-mermaid-pirate world and work on it next.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Year of the Superhero - Spider-Man Trilogy

When I started this series, I mentioned that superheroes tend to make me grin like an idiot. I first noticed this watching Peter Parker test out his powers and learn to be a superhero. He's so clumsy and dorky and good-hearted! He can't catch a break! He shoots webs out of his wrists! The second and third Spider-Man movies don't inspire quite as much glee, but they're still enjoyable. You can't watch them as serious fiction and sometimes you have to ignore bad writing and plot holes, but they're Hollywood summer action blockbusters. If you're entering the theatre expecting Oscar material, you're going to be disappointed.

The Spider-Man franchise hooks me for several reasons. First, there's Peter Parker, who's the most average of all the heroes I've encountered. He's constantly short for cash. He's trying to work his way through school. Everyone sees a geek when he's not in costume. He has girl troubles and job troubles. I identify with him far more than I identify with gods-on-Earth like Clark Kent or high-powered business people like Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark.

Second, there's a larger-than-life quality that at the same time seems highly real, as if it were real life polished, not real life exaggerated. I know this is not true (A man with intelligent robotic arms fused to his back? A man who can turn into sand?), and that Spider-Man has the same shiny, bright, unrealistic world as a lot of the comic franchises, but somehow it doesn't feel like it. I don't even think I suspend less disbelief for Spider-Man than I do for any of the other heroes I've discussed so far (or will discuss in the future). Perhaps it's that Spider-Man doesn't take itself seriously, where some other franchises do? I don't know.

My final reason for loving the series goes back to the first, in a way. I've never felt the stories to be about a superhero. They're about a guy who happens to be a superhero. There's little sense of "Look at me. Aren't I awesome? My CGI team rocks!"* There's a whole lot of "My life SUCKS. It would suck considerably less if I wasn't a superhero, but what can you do?" Peter even tries to quit. It doesn't work out. The movies are about Peter's life and Peter's problems, and how Spider-Man complicates them. Peter's life rarely intrudes into Spider-Man's in the same way.

Detailing these points has made me realize two things.

  1. The first superhero comic I pick up this year will likely be an Ultimate Spider-Man (if it's not Bendis's Powers).
  2. The stuff I love about the Spider-Man films has found its way into my WIP. In a general sense, of course. It's about a guy who happens to be a superhero, and he's kind of a dork, and it's realistic but with kooky details.
Tobey Maguire will always be my Spider-Man, I think, even when I read the comics. He was my first encounter with the character, after all, and I've watched the movies enough times to ingrain him in my memory. But that won't stop me from watching next summer's reboot, just to see what they do with the story and if Garfield's any good in the role. And, like I just mentioned, it won't stop me from picking up the comics, either. The movies as a gateway? Wasn't that the plan?

* Except when applied to the villains. They love their grand-standing, those villains.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Guest Post and WIP Update!

I'm not putting up a long post here today because all of you should be heading over to Science In My Fiction to read the post I've put up there. It's on symbiosis and parasitism, and will hopefully generate SF plot bunnies. Go on, read it, comment. Shoo!

 And fine, if you want to stay here, I'll write a little more. A WIP update, maybe? Because I don't consider it long enough or interesting enough for a full post? Right then.

If you've been following the progress of my novel, you'll know that I keep having epiphanies about things that need to be fixed. I'm about to start the next round of implementation today, having written an admittedly somewhat bad denouement to tie up loose ends. I'm not too worried about the badness of it, since the stuff I'm adding on this pass is going to change things at the end anyway.

This pass is going to focus on Will, the protagonist, and his half of the narration. Will could stand to be stressed out a little more and his first chapter could use a bit more action and personal background, so I'm going to be beating him up again (or for the first time), giving him something to fail to accomplish in Chapter 1, and then [redacted for spoilers] which will result in lost sleep, hard questions, and possibly concerned relatives. The [redacted for spoilers] will also complicate the villain's half of the narration, which is a bonus. I'm excited to get started on this.

After that, Will's story should be "done" barring the next round of betaing, and I'll be switching my focus to the oh-so-fun-to-write villain. I need to give him a b-plot, which I haven't completely figured out yet, and I need to throw more wrenches into his arc than just the [redacted for spoilers]. One of the reasons I'm leaving him for last is because I have to figure this stuff out. Also, while I like writing in his voice, his thought processes scare me sometimes and it's a constant struggle to get him to describe anything. "What does the room you're in look like, Dan?" "It's a room." "What's in it?" "Chairs and a table." "Right then…"

So that's pretty much where things stand with the WIP. I'm going to stop writing here and start writing over there. And you're all going to read my guest post, yes?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Flog Your Blog!

This "meme" was started by Shannon Mayer on Wednesday, and I commented which means I have to pass it on. So I am. Strictly copy-pasting with a few changed words. I'm totally not being lazy today, really. Er…

This is your opportunity to FLOG YOUR BLOG! I thought it would be nice if my followers had a chance to show off what their own blog was about and gain some new followers through my blog here.

When you make a comment, don’t just put in your link, tell us a little bit about your blog. Do you write mostly book reviews? Talk about writing angst? Discuss current events? What’s your own writing genre? Are your published? This will help people decide if they want to follow you.

To be completely clear, this is not a contest, you won’t win anything by making a comment, but I am hoping that you will gain some new followers (me too) by participating in the FLOG YOUR BLOG throw down. The only rules are-

1. You must be following this blog, Specnology to make a comment and . . .
2. You must do this on your blog too in order to give your followers a chance to gain new people.

My hope is that more people will not only get active here by commenting and participating but that my followers will get the same thing on their blogs. I think this sounds like a good idea, let’s see how it works.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Urban Fantasy and Exaggeration

As everyone who follows this blog probably knows by now, I'm big into urban fantasy, both as a writer and reader. This means that I come across, and read, a whole lot of blog posts and internet articles about urban fantasy every week, as well as participating in #ufchat on Twitter. And I've noticed something. A lot of these sources exaggerate.

I know exaggeration generally occurs as a rhetorical device and is being used to highlight certain aspects of the genre. Thing is, this highlighting is frequently in a "my UF doesn't do that" or "we've moved past that as a genre" or "let's tone things down" vein, and I'm not sure it's entirely accurate in that regard. In fact, I think it may perpetuate myths and misunderstandings, and possibly turn people away who'd otherwise read the books in question. (I'm guilty of this highlighting too, by the way.)

I'm not exceptionally well-read in UF, admittedly. There are too many novels for me to even have read half of them. But I'd like to think I'm reasonably versed in what's going on in the genre, and I have to say, I've yet to see some of the heroines people discuss like they're everywhere. You know—the red-headed stick figure in leather, corset, and heels, wielding a longsword or high-calibre weapon without a realistic muscle or body mass. The busty bombshell who shags anyone with a six-pack and a Clint Eastwood voice. The woman who whines about how she's got it so hard when she breaks a nail in the middle of a case and wouldn't you know it but everyone's out of fake nails, not to mention her favourite color of nail polish.

Of course, there are protagonists who fit parts of these stereotypes, but in all the cases I've seen, it's just one part of their character and it comes from either a part of the world-building or in the character's backstory. Maybe they need to wear leather because that's the only thing tough enough to not fall off in a fight. Maybe they sleep around because they've got deep-seated issues about their body and the nature of sex. Maybe the girl with the broken nail is a beauty pageant contestant trying to find out who's been slipping vampire serum to the competition.

Okay, maybe that last one's stretching it.

I also don't see a lot of the broad-chested, sexist, quasi-abusive he-men who are supposed to run rampant through urban fantasies, or the highly-formulaic plots, or the excessively whiny vegan vamps. They're there, to a degree, but the exaggerations … well, exaggerate the character traits, and formulaic plots? UF is by and large a mystery genre. There's only so much you can do with "crime happens, someone goes to solve it, various bad things happen, clues appear, mystery solved". Even still, there's an awful lot of potential even in a single world. The series I follow, which, okay, most are only 4-6 books right now, haven't been played out yet, and the worlds are actually expanding.

These exaggerations of characters and tropes don't just come from haters, though there are certainly people who look down on urban fantasy and play things up to point out flaws. Writers and readers say these sorts of things all the time. "More real vamps!" they say. "More realistic characters!" they say. "More creative plots!" they say. If anyone's reading books with fake vamps and shallow characters and hackneyed plots, they're, I'm sorry to say, not looking hard enough. Not really looking that hard at all. As far as I can tell, good urban fantasy, with rounded, realistic characters, good romances, good mysteries, and complicated, layered worlds is all over the place. By exaggerating the genre, not that that's always a bad thing, we're making people think that it doesn't. Ourselves included.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Another short post

I don't have the motivation to write a long post today. I'd really rather be writing, because I'm on a roll. I'm basically rewriting the ending of the WIP, you see. Same scenes, same general ending, but the words and setting are going to be vastly different. I want to see how far I can get before I have to head to work. I'm on the third scene from the end, by current count.

So, in lieu of something smart and witty and poignant and topical, here are two Doctor Who fanvids that tickle my fancy.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Quick Update

I know it's not Friday. I know I didn't post on Friday. I didn't have the time or the energy. You see, I went home to help my parents in the final couple days of packing for a move, which meant limited net access, limited sleep, and a huge amount of stress. And Friday was my Get Back To The City In Time For Work day, which meant limited net access and a slightly smaller amount of stress. I got to work with 10 minutes to spare.

Three thoughts:

1. Possibly I need to travel long distances without internet more often, because I wrote about five pages of new text for the WIP while in transit. (I don't drive.)

2. My dad has an incredibly awesome personal library. I'm jealous.

3. If you're into urban fantasy and haven't read the October Daye series, stop what you're doing, buy all four books, and read them now. They're a perfect blend of mystery, fantasy, and humor, about a half-fae PI-cum-knight in San Francisco, who keeps getting pulled into Faerie to find its criminals for them. I read the fourth and latest book on my trip, while not writing or packing, and made the mistake of reading the sample from book five. Mistake, I say, because I want that book yesterday! And I have to wait September. I swear, the books keep getting better, and they were good to start with.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Year of the Superhero - Soon I Will Be Invincible

Austin Grossman's Soon I Will Be Invincible is set in a comic book universe. People fall into radioactive vats or get caught in experimental explosions on a regular basis, gaining superpowers which they use for good or evil. There are several alien species, some at war with each other, some interbreeding with humans or living on Earth. There are fairies and magical artifacts, robots and cyborgs. Mad science works. The laws of physics can be defied. And yet in some key ways this isn't a comic book universe, because its inhabitants are normal, three-dimensional people, with hang-ups and flaws and boring dayjobs and backgrounds and history. The book was pitched to me as a realistic superhero novel, and it doesn't disappoint.

The book has two narrators. Doctor Impossible, an aging evil supergenius and former science nerd, is our anti-hero, breaking out of jail to enact yet another master plan to control the world. Fatale, a unique state-of-the-art cyborg, is our heroine, newly drafted into the New Champions to help find CoreFire, the universe's Superman equivalent, and stop Doctor Impossible, who's suspected to have had a hand in the disappearance. The New Champions comprise the rest of the main cast, and we get to know selected other heros and villains throughout the story, largely in flashbacks. Doctor Impossible spends a lot of time reminiscing about the good old days, when you could build a death ray, exchange banter, and escape to rule another day. (These days, it's death ray, banter, jail sentence.)

Grossman's gift, at least with this book, is the level of realism he introduces to the characters, which keeps the story from flying off the rails due to the nature of the universe. Doctor Impossible has a recognizable need to be noticed, and an equally recognizable desire to prove everyone who said he was a loser wrong. He discusses the effects of Malign Hypercognition Disorder, how you kind of fall into become a villain, why you keep going back for more. There are bits I think Grossman glosses over with Impossible, but if he hadn't glossed, Impossible wouldn't have been a recognizable archetype.

Fatale, now… She's flailing and floundering and out of place in the world, and out of place in her body because so much of it's robotic. She's the most average of any of the characters, and new to her powers, so we get an outsider's view of the heroes and villains and the lifestyle both of those hold. And Fatale's description of her inner workings, what it feels like to have a metallic, robotic body, are fantastic. There's no way you can experience that with her, in a different medium.

The characters and world come together to create a fantastic story, which on one level is a recognizable comic/movie plot, and on another is a critique and satire on heroes and villains, on motives, on humanity, and on comic books themselves. A lot of satires seem to get bogged down in hammering their points home, to the detriment of the plot and action, but this one doesn't. It is a fantastic larger-than-life tale even if you ignore the subtext and messages. I have a couple quibbles about time spans and a somewhat over-transparent clue, but they're minor (and possibly due to my copy being an ARC). It's still a great read, and I suspect the Grossman's realism elements are going to influence my own.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Public Opinion About Writing (As Seen By Me)

As you may or may not know, I work in a bookstore. I am paid to tell people what to read, and I'm paid to organize things. It's a dream come true, really. It's also a good job for an aspiring author because it forces me to keep up on trends, forces me to know about genres I don't read, and forces me to get good at pitching and identifying markets and hooks. It's also taught me a few things about public perception of the publishing process. None of this is exactly news, if you're into the online writing community, but I'm going to blog about it anyway, just 'cause.

(Before I continue, I want to make it clear that this post has nothing to do with specific customers, just The Public as kind of a collective organism. Every single customer is awesome—except when they're absolute jerks and steal things. This is especially true if my bosses are reading this, or any of my customers. If they are, hello and welcome!)

Opinion #1: Paperbacks are released shortly after hardcovers are, if not at the same time or even beforehand. 

That one seems to be pretty common. There's a lot of shock when I say, "No, they haven't released the paperback yet, that book only came out Tuesday/last week/a month ago/at Christmas. You're going to be waiting about a year." And yes, I'm aware of the exceptions and add them into my spiel as necessary.

Opinion #2: All bookstores carry board games.

The national chains do, yes. They also carry chocolates, cooking implements, and toy animals. We are an indie and carry none of these things. I have yet to see an indie that does (unless they, say, specialize in kids books or cookbooks or something).

Opinion #3: I, as a bookseller, have read every book in the store.

There are at least 500,000 titles in my store. To read them all, I'd need to read a book a minute for an entire year, not breaking to work or eat or sleep. And that's not including new stock.

Opinion #4: Bookstores have paper bags, not plastic ones.

Do any bookstores have paper bags these days? The ones here don't, that I've seen. Not even the other indies.

Opinion #5: It takes months, not years, to get a book published.

This one shows up in two forms. There's the "I just finished the Cussler/Kellerman/Patterson/Roberts that came out two days ago. How long until the next one?" form, and the "Oh, you're a writer? When will I be able to buy your book?" form. For both, I explain that there are multiple editors involved, and revisions, and then they've got to print copies, and box them, and ship them for the same date. For the latter, I add that I don't have an agent yet, let alone a book deal. That's at least a year away, right there.

Opinion #6: Agents and the traditional press are evil.

This comes from a couple people who know I want to get published. They helpfully inform me that I'm better off self-publishing because the traditional process is out to fleece me of the money I'm due. I've tried to explain that no, it's not like that, and no, agents are actually looking out for my interests, and no, self-publishing isn't going to work because I'm not good enough at promoting myself to make money that way, and yes, I've looked into ebooks and web-based options and I'm not particularly interested at this time. This does not seem to have changed their opinions.

Opinion #7: All bookstores have an ebook line.

As far as I can tell, the only stores with ebook lines are ones with enough money to develop one. Especially when e-readers are involved. We're an indie. As much as we'd like to, we don't have that kind of money. Maybe if the people asking for ebooks bought paper books from us instead of leaving?

Opinion #8: We are affiliated with the national chains.

Nope. They don't even seem to be trying to put us out of business.

Opinion #9: People aren't reading these days.

Nope. They are. Trust me. Paper books, even!

Now, before you get indignant and tell me that I'm wrong, note that:
  1. I am one person, working in one store, in one neighbourhood, in one city.
  2. This is Canada, not the US or another continent.
That said, I like hearing others' experiences and encounters and opinions. What other publishing-related attitudes have you encountered among the reading public? What opinions did you have, that were corrected once you started writing?

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Horrific Realization

I like to think of myself as not being a noob writer, even though technically I am one. A lot of the writing advice I see aimed at new writers doesn't apply to me. Stuff like, "make sure you have a plot," "create a flawed protagonist," "spelling and punctuations are your friends", "don't qualify your dialogue with adjectives," "revise, several times." I follow those rules naturally. On encountering a new piece of advice, my normal reaction is, "People do that?"

But at the same time, there are problems with the WIP. I know this. I've known about most of them for a while, and I more or less know how to fix them. A couple of problems have really come to light in the last couple days, though, via email correspondence with Hannah Bowman, who's getting a shout-out because she's awesome. One problem is impossibly thorny and will take time and patience and a certain amount of blood and tears to correct.* The other is a case of me not following one of the noob rules.

Yes, I have started my manuscript in the wrong place. In my defense, there is a decent case to be argued for starting where I did.** But it's not working, and the first chapter's a little slow. However, if I rewind the clock about 12 hours, we get a fight scene and an unconscious protagonist and bad guys and cool technology. It's also, in a sense, the inciting incident.

So why didn't I start there in the first place? Because I'm too clever for my own good, sometimes. You see, I knew I needed a hook, and I figured, "Hey, if I start after that big fight scene, and only allude back to it, and there are strange things happening that may have to do with this fight we don't really know about, that would make a great hook! People would have to keep reading to find out what the heck is going on! And I can do a big reveal in Chapter 3!"***

Yeah…. Turns out, average reader reaction is more towards the "stop reading" end of the spectrum. I'm going to have to find a way to work in the fight without wrecking the revelation scene in Chapter 3, because the hero's friend need to know stuff, but I can't just retell the opening, and I can't really summarize everything because the friends have to chew out the hero at just about every step. They will not stay quiet long enough to let him finish. Sigh.

Fortunately, I have two new scenes to write near the end, and another scene to "accept changes" on, before I have to restart the story. I guess we'll see if the fight scene works or not after that.

Oh, and this post? Is not a flat-out supporting of the advice to "start in the right place". Go ahead and start in the wrong place. Several times. But be prepared to start in the right spot after people tell you it's not working. This way, you'll be able to identify what the "wrong place" feels like and hopefully not do it again.

* We're not going to talk about this one because it's better communicated through babble and hand-waving than actual prose.
** Also in my defense, the very first opening I wrote was terrible.
*** Chapter 3 being the hero's second chapter.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

50 Rules to Follow If I End Up In an Urban Fantasy Novel

This is inspired by The 213 things Skippy is no longer allowed to do in the U.S. Army. If for some reason you have not read that list, go and do that now. Do not drink or eat while doing so. Then come back and read this homage.
  1. I will not ask paranormal detectives or supernatural cops if vampires or werewolves are better in bed.
  2. I will not ask anyone if vampires or werewolves are better in bed.
  3. Especially if they're vampires or werewolves.
  4. I will not ask vampire hunters if they have a Mr. Pointy.
  5. I will not conjure demons to do my food runs for me.
  6. I will not pay delivery people in fairy gold.
  7. Love potions never end well.
  8. I will not ask fairies if they know Legolas.
  9. I will not ask fairies if they know Frodo.
  10. I will not ask fairies if they know Tinkerbell.
  11. I will not ask fairies if they know Spock.
  12. Fairies are not aliens. Even if they come from another dimension.
  13. "Hot enough for ya?" is not a good conversation opener with demons.
  14. I will not explain Twilight to a vampire.
  15. I will not explain Twilight to a werewolf.
  16. Explaining any other paranormal book or show to the undead will just give them ideas. Don't do it.
  17. I will not pray to any gods. They tend to be creatively literal when answering.
  18. I will not take the names of gods in vain. Many gods have power over lightning and I like my body uncharred.
  19. I will not mention leather pants in the vicinity of a dedicated bounty hunter.
  20. I will not wear leather pants for any reason.
  21. I will not tell female bounty hunters, police officers, private detectives, or anyone else who may encounter the undead on a daily basis, that they would look better in heels.
  22. Axes are not for chopping vegetables.
  23. Neither are swords, hunting knives, throwing knives, or any other blade weapon.
  24. That's probably not V8 in the fridge.
  25. Witches and wizards are sick of Harry Potter jokes.
  26. Broomsticks are not romantic presents. Neither are sunblock, shaving cream, razors, embalming fluid, formaldehyde, garlic, Holy water, religious symbols, mirrors, or medical thread.
  27. If I see something unfamiliar and mobile, I will not poke it with a stick.
  28. Unless I know what I'm doing.
  29. And have the appropriate weapon handy.
  30. If I have to explain the unexplainable, it's a gas leak.
  31. Ghosts do not act like Casper.
  32. I will not assume the moaning, dirty people dressed in rags are alive just because they're moving.
  33. I will not assume anything is alive just because it's moving.
  34. Decapitation is always a solution when battling monsters.
  35. Unless it's a hydra.
  36. I will keep sharp, pointy objects on me at all times.
  37. I will keep peace offerings on me at all times.
  38. Especially when crossing bridges.
  39. I will not whistle after dark. Nor will I attempt to summon Bloody Mary.
  40. I will not use anyone's emergency battle salt or defensive garlic as seasoning.
  41. I will not address any supernatural law enforcement professional as "babe", "hot stuff", "Great and Powerful Master", "Wonder Woman", "Superman," "Wizzard", or "Your Highness". The correct forms of address are "sir," "ma'am," "detective," "officer", and "Mr./Ms. ___."
  42. Just because a car has an anti-damage spell does not mean I can take it on a wild joyride through the city. 
  43. Even if it's my car.
  44. I will not rub oil lamps in the hopes that a genie will appear.
  45. I will not make crank calls about monsters or the undead in the hopes that the hot detective shows up to deal with it. Similarly, I will not make crank calls about dragons for the firemen.
  46. If someone offers me free spells, enchanted objects, granted wishes, the best sex I've ever had, prophecies of my future, or magic beans, I will say no, even if it's really tempting and even if I know how to get out of the ensuing situation.
  47. I will assume there is a Dark Lord even if I see no evidence supporting their existence. There is always a Dark Lord.
  48. If a book is giving off vibes, bound in chains, screaming, or appears to be bound in skin or written in blood, I will not open it.
  49. I will not panic, not even if there is an apocalypse or a million undead on my doorstep. Panic does not solve anything.
  50. I will try to get out of the novel as soon as possible, if not earlier. And then I will kill the author with my novel-acquired skills.
Feel free to add your own in the comments. Hope you liked!