Tuesday, 30 April 2013

The donate button and Side Effects

You'll note a donate button over on the right-hand sidebar. That button is the start of something interesting. At the moment it's intended as a way to keep enough food in me to allow for writing to continue. Shorty, though, it's going to be a way to pay what you think things are worth.

That's right, I'm going to trust you, reader, to pay what you think stories and books are worth that you download free here on the site.

This will take a bit of time and thought on my part, but expect to see changes through the spring and summer. The first project that will use the button exclusively is a serialized novel-length sequel to the NaNoWriWee shortlister Tokyo Pizza currently entitled Side Effects (which has its own blog now). Having a pop-culture satirical adventure yarn come out in discrete chunks isn't a new thought. It really hearkens back to the days of radio drama, but it is a new thing for me.

I'm excited by the concept, but to make it work I'll have to make sure the wide world of the internet comes and reads and has fun. I'll also have to stick to a tough self-imposed writing schedule. The best way to make sure it works is simple. If you like it, and enjoy the stories, then share them with  others. Tweet it, craft a short blog post, tell your friends at the pub.

It's the wild wild west of publishing these days. Let's ignore the rules and make it fun.

Trolling Ghana

Yes, I'm one of those guys. When the email scammers send me notes, I have to try and troll them back. Today's was from Mr. Edward Effah the  Managing Director and  Chief Executive Officer of Fidelity Bank in Ghana.

He has a terrible issue with $13.5 million that he'd like my help with, and wanted my information. It's confidential, so I can't go into details. I decided to send him my own plan:

I have a counterproposal. In order to show your good faith and prove the reality of your claims, you can show the truth of your proposal by depositing a "good faith" amount of $10,000.00 (US$) into a PayPal account I will specify. The deposit will be returned to you upon the completion of your proposed arrangement, and will be lost should you fail to complete the arrangement.
As a first step, please supply the following:
1) A scanned copy of your personal photo identification
2) Your physical address
3) A non-Webmail email address
4) Your PayPal account name for the return of the deposit
Thank you

I don't know why the idea of trolling some Ghana gangster amuses me, but it does. Besides, I'm curious to see if they're dumb enough to respond to a morphed version of their own horridly stupid shit.

I am easily amused.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Amazon and free books

This last six weeks has been an experimental period, during which I attempted to assess the usefulness of the Kindle Select option through Amazon. Some of the vote is still out, but early returns are in.

For those not familiar with the program, Amazon gives you the option to enter a book into the Select program, so long as you agree that you will not sell it through any other platform. What they give you in return is 5 days in a three-month period during which you may give away the book for free as a promotion.

That’s it, really.

The results thus far appear to be largely ineffective. Reviews are difficult to quantify, but I suspect I’m seeing one review per 500-1000 downloads. That’s unsatisfying, as reviews were really the only reason I’d been interested in the program. I won’t say I was surprised. I suspect that the vast majority of books downloaded for free are never read at all. People just like to grab free things; it’s a monkey-brain reflex. You also run the risk of people who really don’t like your genre reviewing you because it was free – they’d never have downloaded your space opera, otherwise, and didn’t like all the starships, etc.

So is it worthwhile? No, I don’t think so, but the experiment isn’t quite over. I think I preferred to run my promotions using Smashwords coupons for reviewers, contest winners and the like.

In the end, we all value things relative to what we paid for them; this is why the wealthy extoll Ferrari rather than Ford. I suspect that mass free promotions devalue the quality of a writer’s work in the mind of the reader, consciously or unconsciously. I don’t think they’re nearly as valuable as Amazon would have us believe.

Thoughts? Leave a comment!

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Autotweets, how I hate thee

   You know those half-dozen tweets you send out every day? The boring ones that fill the spaces between the tweets about your cat or what Fox News/CNN just said in defiance of known fact?
   Wouldn't it be nice to just put  those on a timer so you could write and deal with those "important" tweets? Well, don't look at Dripita for that. I've had nothing but trouble with that particular app.
   It's not like I've asked it to do much. One tweet every six hours from a rotating list seems like an easy enough task, but Dripita squeezes one out, then stops, unable to continue on. Or, more rarely, it kicks out two or three in a little, acidic clump - like those last three tequila shooters you just knew were a bad idea.
   Hateful thing.
   Does anyone know of a happier app? One that maybe, you know, works?

Friday, 26 April 2013

Tokyo Pizza FREE this weekend. Get your reading freak on.

     That's right, this weekend is your chance to get Tokyo Pizza for FREE over at Amazon. A lightly satirical thriller complete with public sex, private blackmail, odd humor, questionable plots, octopus pizza and other unmentionables.

    This is your chance to see why Pizza was a shortlisted finalist in HarperCollin's 30-hour Novel competition.

     Tokyo Pizza. It tastes a little different.


I'm a featured author at Freebooksy

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Shadowrun Returns - gaming nerdgasm

    An unsolicited squeal of glee for Shadowrun Returns. We'll be seeing it very shortly, and anyone who remembers the great cyberpunk-meets-fantasy pen-and-paper roleplaying game should drop by the Harebrained Schemes website and poke around.
    I've loved the setting since FASA (R.I.P.) brought it out, and it's nice to see the guys managed to float a successful kickstarter and make this game happen.
   For those who have no idea what I'm on about, Shadowrun is a SF/fantasy alternate near-future setting where your elite computer hacking black-ops specialist might be an elf, and your heavy weapons thug could be a troll, with the heat of the action occuring in a very different, yet oddly familiar, Seattle.
   It's a LOT of fun.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Stone Sky teaser

Just a first-draft bit of one of the two novels I currently have underway. It's a fantasy piece, but not the standard sort. No dragons, unicorns or zombies. This is copyright Michael Lane 2013.

Verrin sat on the stone bench outside the Westarch barracks and watched three casteless youths beating an older scavenger with silent, bloody-minded attention.

The trio were doing a job of it. Two held the target’s arms, while the third, a sallow-faced dwarf with a short, forked blonde beard, hammered at the victim’s face with a fist slick with blood. They’d run him down in the street, sandals clattering, just as Verrin had gotten comfortable.

The barracks’ iron gate squealed open and Verrin glanced to his left. Another dwarf, clad in mail identical to his, took a few steps into the street and stopped, staring at the fight.

"Kolosh," Verrin called. The newcomer glanced over, offering a sketchy salute and walking over to take a seat on the bench.

From the future-past

    Anyone with an interest in radio shows or experimental entertainment should check out "Found in the elevator" here.  I didn't find it - William Gibson tweeted about it and Wil Wheaton posted about it on his blog this week, which you should also go read.

   It's fascinating and reminds me of why I go on old radio drama binges. It's basically a message from the future found sans explanation in our present. It has a strange 70s scifi feel that I like. Something like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and THX1138 crossed with Brazil.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Strip Search

It's not like the lumbering internet colossus that is Penny Arcade really needs my help, but I have to point people to their oddball reality show Strip Search, in which a group of aspiring web comic artists battle for cash and a slot in the Penny Arcade machine for a year.

I’m not big fan of a lot of “reality” shows. I will watch the occasional Hell’s Kitchen episode because I like to see Ramsay’s face go red, and I like feeling that I can cook better than half his wannabe chefs. Strip Search is a different sort of deal, or has been thus far.

Contestants are likable, for starters. They haven’t descended into the usual metagaming backstabbery that forms the grist of most reality TV, and if that reduces drama, it increases the emotional weight of the eliminations. You want ALL these people to win. That’s a neat trick, and one the “real” reality genre might want to take note of.

Additionally, challenges are interesting and thus far tie in well to the skills a web comic author needs. So far they’ve avoided having contestants bob for hand grenades or chase greased Vietnamese pigs in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Instead, they draw, market, and deal with Twitter trolls.

PA creators Mike Krahulic and Jerry Holkins are amusing as the bastard offspring of Simon Cowell and a Labyrinth goblin, and eliminations are lightened by their transparent attempts to throw competitors off their game. And, my god, the smoothie. Anyone who’s watched knows what I’m on about. Holkins, you are a terrifying force for random ingestion. Robert Khoo does a fine job wearing his Producer’s hat, as well.

So go waste some time. Watch the first few – it gains speed and sucks you in by the fourth instalment – and see what a reality show can be in a world where people aren’t scripted.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Omnibus angst

   I read a lot of omnibus editions.
   Three book series and the like tend to be handier for shelving as a single volume, and I usually fall prey to the nice new covers while wandering through the bookstore, so I buy them.
   They're great, until you get home and are reading one in bed, where, let's be honest, most reading is done. You crack open your mammoth tome, wriggle into the pillow, and find yourself spending the next half-hour trying to discover a comfortble way to hold eight pounds of wood pulp in a position that doesn't kill your wrist, smother you or mangle oversized trade pages. If you are sleeping next to someone else, they'll likely not be impressed by the light or the constant crackling of paper and mumbled curses.
   I like the smell and feel of a book. I like it a lot. But I'm beginning to think the e-reader is edging it with its sheer convenience.
   And they tend to be under a pound.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Writing tips for the month

This will be short and sweet.

DO NOT use ellipses (...) unless showing a section of a quote from which words have been excised by an editor.

DO NOT use exclamation points outside quotation marks, and try to avoid them within, unless someone is screaming.

DO NOT confuse its and it's. The first is possessive, the second a contraction.

DO use short sentences.

DO use simple language.

DO learn the difference between a colon and a semi-colon.

DO read more.

Finally, DO weight story and character over everything else. Description, plot, theme, language, tone, everything else is a distant third. And yes, I do differentiate plot and story. A story is "what if men could fly at will" while a plot is a boring mechanical framework someone stretches that question over like a bloodied hide, forcing it into an unnatural shape.

Keep writing.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Fantasy vs SF

    There's been a long running, sometimes venomous debate as to the relative merits of science fiction versus fantasy. The discussion dates back to the letters pages of Weird Tales and Astonishing SF during the pulp era, so one would assume there's something to it; something meaty to fire up the century-long flamewar.
    You'd be wrong.
    SF and fantasy are buttonholed into discrete genres, and it's a mug's game. It's a nonsensical definition between make-believe settings utilizing make-believe powers in some way that has a measurable impact on the plot or characters of the work. it reminds me of the bickering between the deeply religious and the coldly scientific among the legions of talking heads.
   What the speculative fiction genre (a much better descriptor) does is put characters in situations against a background divorced from our daily reality. That helps to highlight the characters and their motivations, in my mind at least. I'm sure others could argue.
   Good speculative fiction is immensely satisfying. Moby Dick. Rendezvous with Rama. The House on the Borderlands. The Road. The Shadow of the Torturer. The list goes on and on. Readers, please avoid limiting your book consumption to just one of these two "genres" - if you do that you'll miss out on half the buffet of wonderful literature before you. If you gravitate toward one end of the spectrum, step back and choose somethiing outside your comfort zone. Explore.
   Do read with discernment, though. There's a lot of utter crap burying genre fiction shelves, which is due to a whole host of problems, some of which I may go into in the future. If a book does nothing for you, put it down. Leave a bad review. Warn your children. If it's good, do the opposite. Blog it, talk it up, leave reviews.
   Get out there and read.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

A message to terrorists

  Wherever you are, and whatever your cause is.

That is all.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Visiting with villains

     I like a good villain. They're generally the most interesting when they're real people with a bit of complexity to them - what actual villain thinks they're the bad guy, after all? I'm sure Stalin thought he was a great Russian hero.
    As a treat, here's a brief visit with Creedy from Behind the Ruins (which you should pick up and review if you haven't):

They had a year or two, Creedy thought. If they weren’t established somewhere in Canada by then, the band would be in trouble. There was little enough room to go further west, and the south was a patchwork of dug-in cartels, cults, gangs and warlords that would unite to kill any interloper quickly. It would have to be the north. There he’d have the space and the time needed to explore future plans.

Creedy had reached the reception hall of the building, with its sandbagged windows and trio of guards, when Gregor appeared at his side.

"Sir? A moment?" Gregor asked. His face and arms were stippled with tiny droplets of blood.

"Certainly, Gregor."

"Harris has received the ordered punishment, Mr. Creedy. He’s unconscious now. I took him to the infirmary, and the doctor says he should live. Also, Max told me that the new staff are in the west wing, in the old classroom, and he’d appreciate it if you could spare a minute to okay them. Any further orders for me?"

"Go inform Max that I’ll be there within the half-hour, then get cleaned up and take some time off. I’ll see you in the morning, Gregor."

"Yes, sir."

Creedy watched Gregor depart. The factotum’s shoulders, swollen from obsessive weightlifting, almost eclipsed his head, and his silhouetted form combined with his shambling gait was trollish.

The three watchmen on duty had stood to silent attention when Creedy had entered the hall, and he took a few minutes to inspect their weapons and chat with each, offering a few words with a perfect facsimile of interest.

He climbed to the second floor, smelling the stale fish oil from the lamps that lit the corridors, and found Max waiting.

Creedy used Max as a recruiter. The little man was glib and harmless looking, with flyaway white hair and watery blue eyes. He smiled at Creedy and held the door for him.

"Afternoon, Mr. Creedy," he said.

"Max." Creedy scanned the three women, one was old and two were younger. All looked scared. The youngest, on the left, was the prettiest, with reddish hair and a body the shapeless smock she wore couldn’t quite hide.

"What’s your name?" Creedy asked her.

"Sam. Samantha Jakes," she responded, blinking. Her eyes were hazel, he noted. Max coughed theatrically. "Sir," she added, remembering.

"Miss Jakes, can you write?"

"Yes, sir, I can."

Creedy nodded. "Good. I think you’ll do. I need a girl for my office - someone to do correspondence as needed, fix tea, perform whatever duties I require. Do you have any questions?"

She blinked several times. Creedy smiled.

"Well, sir, what other duties? And for what pay?"

Creedy gestured and Max escorted the other two from the room. They’d be taken to the kitchens and shown to the dorms. When they’d left, Creedy closed the door and moved to stand looking down at the girl.

"You’ll be housed, fed, clothed far better than what you wear now. You’ll find that I reward service with gifts as well." He cocked his head to the side, watching her hands as she knitted the fingers together tightly in her lap. "Do you prefer straight answers, or romantic ones?"

"I guess the truth’s the best way. Sir."

"Good. I expect you to do whatever I tell you for the next year; two at the outside. Anything. If it’s to wear velvet dress and be on my arm for a headman’s meeting in some dirtball town, or to mop my office floor, or to get down on your knees and suck my cock in front of the assembled troops."

She paled, but kept eye contact. That surprised Creedy.

"If you do just that - obey me - you’ll find your life will improve dramatically. If you say you will, but decide not to - if something I ask of you seems too much - I’ll beat you until you find it less objectionable. If that fails to convince you, then I’ll probably give you to the troops as a fuck toy."

"Well," the young woman said, voice trembling a little. "My gran told me that’s about what I could expect. How long before you kill me?"

Creedy laughed.

"I don’t waste people. I understand my last girl, Dania, bought a saloon in Wenatchee. I expected a lot from her, and I paid her for it when I tired of her. Money is not an issue for me." Creedy paused, staring at Jakes. "You wanted it straight, there it is."

"And if I turn you down, right now?"

"You go work in the kitchens for a two-year stretch like the other pair. You will receive food and a cot and a piece of silver once a month. Keep this in mind: If you say you’ll work for me, and you run, I’ll find you, bring you back and kill you. Slowly."

Creedy clasped his hands behind his back and waited. Samantha bowed her head for a moment before lifting her gaze to his waiting smile. Tears made her eyes shine.

"All right, I’ll do it. For the money. For my own farm. For the money to buy some papered stock, I’ll do whatever you want. Sir."

Creedy smiled. He reached out, ran a fingertip along the curve of her jaw. He felt her flinch. They always sell themselves, he thought.

"Welcome to our little family, then, Sam. Let me show you where you’ll sleep, and get you out of that potato sack and into something more fitting."

Outside, the first flakes of snow swirled on the darkening air of November.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Boston bombings and other painful truths

   I was torn. I had almost decided that I would avoid the mandatory after-action blog post on the bombing in Boston. The internet will be full of them. They'll all say how awful the attacks were, how well Boston's emergency services reacted, and the annoying ones will go on to Monday-morning quarterback the poor bastards in charge of event security.

   Bombers piss me off, because they are cowardly and indiscriminate. Drones piss me off for the same reason, and clusterbombs, mines, chemical weapons, etc. They're the sorts of weapons frightened children would gravitate to, while adults risk arrest and worse to climb onto a soap-box in a square and make their political demands the old-fashioned way.

   When I step back from those normal, unavoidable emotions, though, and put the bomber in context, I realize something about our world-view that's shocking.

   Yesterday, in the US, three died in terrorist attacks
   Yesterday, just on average, 45 people were  murdered in the US
   Yesterday, on average, 230 people were forcibly raped in the US
   The inexplicable part? That we should be horrified by the first number, and largely unconscious of the other two. No one deserves to be listed as a statistic in any of these categories.
    Hang in there, Boston.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Behind Behind the Ruins

    I was  penning a blurb for Amazon the other day and it answers questions (most start out "why did you-") I field with many readers, so let me go ahead and post it here.

    Behind the Ruins combines several things I believe very deeply about speculative fiction: SF doesn't need to use genre conventions, characters are the real reason people read books and readers are smart.
     I went into the project with the plot fairly well worked out, and with a conscious decision to write it using Hemingway's rules of writing*. Be direct. Be simple. Tell the truth. I wanted to visit the well-trodden wastes of post-apocalyptic fiction and ask some real questions: What would it really be like? What would it do to people?
     Thematically, the book examines the costs and seductions of violence, but the guts of the novel are found in Grey's quest to save whatever remains human in his tattered soul.

   That's the real answer.

* Hemingway's core rules
1. Use short, simple sentences.
2. Use short, crisp first paragraphs.
3. Use vigorous, clear English, avoid mushy prose.
4. Use positive words rather than negative ones.
5. Tell the truth.
   (Sounds simple, but it's not.)

Thoreau was a poser - check out Dick Proenneke

   Just a short note. If you're not familiar with Dick Proenneke's story, you should get that way. Proenneke was a retired mechanic and amateaur naturalist who built a tiny cabin in the Alaskan wilderness and then liked there, filming and writing his journals, for 30 years. Interesting stuff. His wiki info is one source, and his friend's film site is another. The National Park Service has more info as well.
   Proenneke's cabin is now an open museum of sorts. If you can get to it, you're free to look around.
   In a world where we think we need so much to live, it's nice to remember how little we really require.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Django? Meh.

   Just watched Django Unchained last night, and I'm in the "not impressed" minority on this one.
   I don't think I've ever spent as much time during a movie conscious of a director's hamhanded references and homages to other movies from a variety of genres (Blazing Saddles being the most jarring). While most of the actors turned in good/fair performances, DeCaprio's abysmal accent and cartoonish acting ruined the latter half for me. Walton Goggins was wasted in the trite little henchman role, as well. The story was as predictable as the gas following a Taco Bell burrito.
   While historic accuracy has never been a concern in spaghetti westerns - which Django wants to be - it's somehow more acceptable to  me to be wildly inaccurate when it's an Italian filmmaker scripting a movie in the 1970s than when you're Tarantino doing it now.
   A shame. I was prepared to like this, but really didn't, despite a few chuckles here and there. In fact, I had to go back and watch Fistful of Dollars afterward and assure myself that I still liked a good spaghetti western. Unfortunately for Tarantino, I do.
   Three out of five.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Stereotypes aren't innately evil

Stereotypes are good. Usually.

I can sense people getting ready to howl, so I’ll just say read the whole post first then unfurl your internet rage.

Stereotyping is bad, according common opinion. That’s a crock. Stereotyping allows you to get out of bed in the morning and make it farther than the closet without your brain exploding. Stereotypes are simply mental shortcuts that allow us to identify something as belonging to a class of objects.

Friday, 12 April 2013

DPRK - what the hell?

      Not really literature-related, but I'm certainly fascinated by the North Korean posturing festival of early 2013.

      Being a writer, I decided I would treat the Kim the Younger as a character and try to decide what his motivations might be. I'm sure the CIA does something similar, and much more professionally, but it's a fun mental exercise.

     Kim's spent the past weeks vocally threatening nuclear attack on his neighbors, the US and, as far as I can tell, Atlantis. He's had missile launchers potter around and look threatening, and the sum total of his profit thus far has been to make China and Russia back away from their historic relationship with the DPRK.

    If I was writing the thriller, what possible reason could Kim have for his visible course of action? We'll discard "he's crazypants" as an explanation because it's boring. If he's nuts there's no reason to speculate. Let's try to decide what he could be hoping to get out of it.

    Whatever profit he expects can't be coming from outside North Korea, as he's alienating everyone (with the possible exception of Iran). Therefore, he must be looking to increase his standing with forces inside the DPRK. Inside, the only major player is the North Korean military - it’s unlikely Kim gives a shit what the people think of him - so we can go with the idea that his posturing is meant to impress the generals.

    Being a hawk often enamors politicians to generals, so the tough talk is probably aimed at them. That raises a more interesting question: Why is he not popular enough with the generals? Young Kim was educated for several years overseas, so is he seen as not sufficiently committed to the revolution? Are the generals actively looking to gain control of the government in such a way as to oust the Kim cult-dynasty? Who knows, but it's interesting to speculate.

   If I had to guess, I'd say Young Kim took the seat of power without understanding the existing interplay of influence in Pyongyang, and others are chipping away at his throne. So, yes, there might be a war, but it would be intended as a distraction from internal conflicts that would, I think, rapidly turn that violence inward.

   I think there's a chance that Kim may suddenly suffer a retirement due to heath issues. We'll see. It's a bit like trying to predict what a cage full of lobotomized cats will do.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Indie House Books guest editorial up

   Ah, my guest post on the future of publishing is up at so swing by Indie House Books and feel free to comment.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Tokyo Pizza, hot and ready

That sounds slightly dirty. But there is a sex scene in there, so I guess that’s fair. Anyway, my 30-hour novel Tokyo Pizza is finally edited and up at Amazon. The book is the result of the 2013 NaNoWriWee “write a book in a weekend” madness that HarperCollinsUK and The Kernel put on. It was a strange, surreal, sleep-deprived weekend, but I really like what came out of it.

Shortlisted finalist in the 2013 NaNoWriWee 30-hour novel competition sponsored by HarperCollinsUK and The Kernel, Tokyo Pizza is a surreal ride mixing satire with pulp adventure.

Five college students on an exchange program in Tokyo in the early 90s find themselves involved in a devious plot to blackmail one of their number. As they learn more about their situation, they discover their opponents are both powerful and distant, with the exception of the urbane and sadistic yakuza boss who is the chief architect of their misery.

To stop him, the ragtag group will have to graduate from theory to practice a little earlier than they might have liked.

The novella is a strange but very fun thing that took on a life of its own. I’m actually quite proud of it. Even before editing it had managed to claw its way into the shortlisted finalists, and now that it’s been polished I think it’s one of my favorites.

It’s a departure for me. It does have the offbeat characters I like, but it depends more on satire, humor and things blowing up than I usually gravitate to while writing. I admit to being a literary nerd; I like my characters to suffer through long arcs that change them at some molecular level, and usually prefer a clear, sparse, Hemingway-like prose style. This was more like I briefly channeled Alan Ginsberg while watching an A-team marathon.

I want to extend thanks to HarperCollins for picking up the reins when, stunningly, The Kernel closed up shop mid-contest. That could have been far worse than it was.

So, get a six-pack and a TV dinner, put the kids to bed, and try some Tokyo Pizza.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Literature for a buck? Sure. Behind the Ruins goes .99 for Spring

Behind the Ruins, 99 cents

Following the great response to the promo giveaway of Behind the Ruins, I’m running a Spring special to celebrate the return of those green things that show up once in a while on trees. For a limited time, snag a copy for just 99 cents. That’s a huge deal and helps keep indies alive. GRAB IT HERE

If you missed the promo, here’s a little bit on what you can have for less than a buck:

Grey has turned his back on the life of a raider. He’s learned other ways to survive in a damaged world stripped of its technology. Late in life, he’s made friends and a home - and buried his inner darkness in dreams.

He’s respected, known and trusted throughout the slowly-recovering valley he calls home. He should be happy, and he is.

But a murderous chance meeting shows that others have dire plans for this home. Further, the power behind the plot is a man Grey once called a friend.  More worrying, he has an army, with yet another chasing behind.

Grey is left with the choice of abandoning his home and friends, or risking everything – including those friends - with a desperate and pitiless stand behind the bloody skills of his own ruined youth.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Why is Game of Thrones such good TV?

   I’m sure HBO asks that question and tries to apply the answer to its many other projects. For me, the answer is the characters.

   The minds producing, writing and directing GoT are following rules I think are vital for any piece of fiction, in any medium. They have real, imperfect, human characters dropped  into fantastic settings and situations, and that’s what works. The reverse, typified by your average superhero movie, is rarely as involving or as interesting.

   The why is simple enough: Humans identify with people not unlike themselves. We’re all imperfect, mixes of good and bad, cowardice and bravery, and we respond to that in a character. I try to keep that in mind whenever I write. A character should have moments when they fail to live up to their own expectations, and moments when they surprise themselves. When we watch GoT we get that – plotters who fail in their aims, good men and women brutalized by those who are far less good, madness triumphing over sanity – all the things we see day to day on the street or in the news. Seeing those interactions in a stunningly different world makes them stand out for the reader or viewer. It gives us a contrasting background, a brightly-lit stage where the passions can be easily seen.

   Perfect, idealized characters would spoil it. Besides, who roots for Superman? Give me Tyrion Lannister any day. He’ll go far. If no one kills him.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Surviving Easter and promos

   That was a stressful weekend.
   Doing a Kindle promotion, giving away a mass of books, posting to Twitter and annoying my friends on G+ was a success. I do expect that the novel will see some good reviews in the coming weeks, which is always a help. Most importantly, it got the book out there for people to see and talk about.
   It's a bit of a risk, I think, to do a widespread promo with a genre book that's also an experiment in minimalism - not many SF writers go into a project intentionally using Hemingway's rules of composition - but you have to do it. Work will stand on its own or it won't.
   So to everyone who downloaded a copy, my thanks, I hope you enjoy it and that it makes you think about a few things in a backhanded way. Feel free to leave a review over at Amazon. Be honest.
   Now I can get back to the business of working on the sequel to Behind the Ruins, in which we learn a lot more about both Malcolm Barnes and the world of the Fall, both of which turn out to be stranger than anyone, myself included, suspected.

   In other news the spring weather has finally hit BC with temperatures in the fifties, which is T-shirt weather on my mountain.

   If you get a chance, go read John Scalzi's April fools post. It's hilarious.

  Peace, read lots and support indie writers by leaving reviews. It's good karma.

  As always, indie authors needing editing should check out my professional service at Edit It!