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The Stories We Aren’t Telling

During a recent attempt at mindless escapism I recently downloaded some collections of popular novels from roughly 1900-1920. As a supply of reading material it’s worked out excellently (as long as I give myself permission to skip nine out of ten books). The escapism, though, failed with the very first book I read, by Mary Cholmondeley (Nope, never heard of her, and thought it had to be a pen name until I looked her up. Sic transit gloria mundi.) It featured people being very earnest about social issues in a very recognizably contemporary way.

Early in the book our heroine and designated Good Person muses on the injustice of life: “‘If anyone had told me,’ she said to herself, ‘when I was rich, that I lived on the flesh and blood of my fellow-creatures, that my virtue and ease and pleasure were bought by their degradation and toil and pain, I should not have believed it, and I should have been angry. Read more

Of Practical Matters

I’m quite sure everyone here has managed to stumble across an anachronism so horrific it leaves you wondering what kind of idiot would write such tosh. It’s like the Regency lady being divested of her bra and panties (yes, I have seen this. I promptly tried to eliminate the memory via a large quantity of brain bleach).

Frankly, it’s more than a little bit important that any kind of SF or fantasy that’s not using present day as its time period gets the clothes at least partly right. After all, who would want to see Space Pirate Dashing Hero saving the universe while wearing a farthingale? Unless he’s into period crossdressing or some kind of bizarre bet went wrong, of course.

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A Few Notes on Message Fiction

One of the perennial topics here at Mad Genius Club is the gradual creep of message fiction, and how this is irksome. Most of us like our stories to be just that- stories. If we wanted to listen to a sermon, we’d go to church.

But message fiction has been around since, well, forever. The first stories probably went something like this: “Gather ‘round, children. Let me tell you about my brother Og. Og was not very smart, and went hunting alone one day. Og was eaten by a lion. Don’t be like Og.” Read more


Last week, my friend Brad Torgersen had a post saying “the purpose of workshops is to make it possible for you to walk away from workshops.”

I’m going to disagree with him, at least a little bit. Read more

More things to consider when it comes to covers

Last week, I described my first foray into Fiverr in search of a cover. I admitted the process was both easier and more difficult than I expected. Easier because the process of finding someone and staying in contact with them during the creation process is seamless and, at least for me, quickly done. More difficult because a number of those you will come across may be good to awesome at what they do, but they don’t all know the technical requirements sites like Amazon place on covers. So you have to be up on that information and make sure they know what you need.

But, that post and a couple of conversations I’ve had since them pointed me to another issue authors have when it comes to covers. Now, I’m not going to try to tell you how to create a cover. I’m not a cover artist or designer. Been there, done that and know I don’t have the time or desire or money to get the programs I need (and learn them) to make the quality of covers I want for my books. What I am going to do is talk to you as a writer about covers and about what you need to pay attention to when looking for a cover artist. Read more

So is this what burnout looks like?

Image: Pixabay

Back in the dark ages, I joined the other tiny handful of fish-nutters who had made it into what was reputed to be the toughest post-grad in South Africa (we started a full month before anyone else, had no vacations – and that one year is now a three year course) with the kind of subject fanatics who thought eating on your dissection table saved time. Besides, if you couldn’t find your mouth while staring through a dissecting microscope, you deserved to starve. It was a glorious, intense year, fueled on caffeine and a peer group who basically did almost nothing else, seven days a week.  No-one left before midnight, 2 AM was common by the end of the year.  We were driven, inspired and pushing ourselves to our limits.

And one of the previous year’s graduates, engaged the bludgeoning edge of science that was to produce the first artificial abalone feed (and a lot of dead abalone) paving the way for a billion dollar aquaculture industry, said to us on of last days when we were looking to him for advice on that great future we all thought was there: “Ichthy Honours? Oh, well done. That proves to everyone you could work hard, once. You’ll be f…all good to anyone for six months, and never ever work that hard again.” Read more

Writer Life Balance: A Semi-Anchoress’ Take

On Wednesday, the question came up about how does one manage to balance out the life of a writer and everything else that we need to do. I’m probably better suited to be the horrible warning than the good example, because I am the one who once locked herself in her apartment for six weeks to study for exams, emerging three times a week to 1) get food, 2) have lunch with German speakers, and 3) attend worship services. And I was quite happy to do this. Most people would start having serious problems with the lack of social contact.

But how do you keep your family from dragging you out of the office, your employer from providing you with far more writing time than your budget wanted, and your health from deteriorating? Read more