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For me anyway, books have distinct phases. The ‘what a great idea I am plunging into’ phase, to the ‘this is hard complex yakka phase’, creating the details and shape of a whole world, picking the variables that will determine your character’s path. This where you find the character and plot have had a less-than-amicable divorce, are shit-talking about each other, and will do the exact opposite of the other wanted, out of spite. It’s the hardest part of the book for me, except for some of the other parts…

Like the next part, where the book is starting to run on rails again… and I ALWAYS re-read and think and wonder… why the reader should bother, and why I as the writer should bother going on.  Yeah, doubt and depression win against the earlier uncertainty, every time, easily. Now, I have written enough books to know that this too, will pass.

It’s like the sign just outside our great metropolis of Whitemark, which says ‘pass cyclists safely’ without giving you a clue how to do this. I mean, if you swallow them with their bicycles, those have lots of spiky stick-out bits, and if you swallow them without the bicycles, the bicycles make a tripping hazard. The answer is to wrap them – and their bicycles in duct tape first. And then lubricate them well to help them pass easily.  Olive oil is better than sunscreen.

Or in other words, there is no obvious easy way of going through this phase: because it, as often as not, it is you that needs fixing, not the book.  This is often where we turn to first readers and ask them what they think. When we have finished the book, we want them to be nasty and try to find the mistakes. At this stage we want them to say ‘take my money’  (Seriously, if helping a friend at this stage, this is not hard edit time.).

So: from the WIP (unedited, raw, hot off the fingers.)

 We had to run to keep up.  The wolf stopped just as I was about to drop. I stood there, hands on my knees, panting. Bey was panting too, but he, like the wolf, was turning his head to listen.  And he looked deathly afraid.  Then I heard it, and I was afraid too.

It was a giggle.

How a giggle could sound quite so nasty, quite so evil… and quite so… gleeful was a shock. But it did. And then off to the side, was another. And then, another, from the other side.

“What is it?” I asked, looking around the snowy forest-land we found ourselves in.

“Nithings.” The word was almost a hiss from Bey. He plainly hated and feared whatever they were.

“What are ‘nithings’?” I asked, not sure I wanted the answer.

“Illska hlátr. The cruel laughter. The children of the hag of Niflheim.  They take glee in torture and find sport in tormenting those they catch. That’s who Uncle Luke rescued me from, after the Jotunar killed my parents.”

“What do we do?”

“Run. They wouldn’t be chasing us if there weren’t hundreds of them.”

“I don’t know if I can run much further.”

“You just have to try, Liss. We can’t stop,” said Bey pulling me upright. His voice, his manner… I remembered that, when he first came to stay with grandfather. Bey was on the edge of panic, just holding it in. Only just.  So I tried running again. Got a bit of a second wind, or maybe it wasn’t as steep uphill. The snow up wasn’t deep, just a nasty, slippery crust. It had got a little lighter, possibly because we were mostly out of the forest, onto a rocky ridge.  But the whatchamacallits were definitely gaining on us.  I saw one for the first time, through the trees just down-slope.

I wasn’t prepared for that.

It looked like… a bunny.

And then there was another. It was a cute little baby-face.

There was something wrong with it… with both of them. Babies and bunnies didn’t move like that, though.

And they didn’t laugh like that either.

We’d come to a steepish piece of rock. The wolf bunched itself and leaped, taking it in two bounds and few bits of rock, falling down on us. Fortunately nothing large, but I flung the first chunk as hard as I could at the chasers. Hit one. It even sounded like a baby, yowling about it. “Climb,” said Bey.

So I did. Both of us did. Looking at the milling pack of things below us they… had more legs than a baby. Or a cute bunny. I said as much to Bey.

“They sew the skins to themselves. They like the small and soft. They skin them alive, and then sew them to their own skin.  Angbroda’s seidr keeps the skins looking alive. You’re supposed to feel sorry for them. To spare them, to hold back… and then they kill you. They use pity and goodness as a weapon against men.”

 Image by Monfocus from Pixabay

Books for Writers

Next post, I’ll do a link post of sites with information on copyright (good, bad, and ugly) and related resources. However, that takes time I did not have last week, so I want to look at resources for authors, especially books that I have found useful.

Important caveat: these are books that I have found useful. Not all books work for all authors. Guides for people who do genre fiction (thrillers, romance, sci-fi and fantasy) might not work so well for people who write literary fiction, and vice versa.

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IP: Cover Art Licenses

As you all know, Indie authors wear a lot of hats. I have a few extra, because I’m an author and an artist. So this post is going to be me switching hats, and talking about cover art, from both sides of the page. Read more

Literature through Russian eyes – and what it says about political correctness

Today I’m not going to say much myself.  Instead, I’m going to quote several paragraphs from a very long, but very thought-provoking, analysis of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and other Russian authors, and how literature came to represent a moral crusade for them, and for their fellow countrymen.  It’s in the New Criterion, titled “How the great truth dawned“, written by Gary Saul Morson.  It’s very different from our Western attitudes towards literature, but I think it offers a perspective from which we could learn.

That’s particularly important in an era when political correctness is more than ever a determinant of what’s put out by traditional publishers.  One’s work usually has to conform to “contemporary priorities” or “modern understanding” if it’s to have any chance of acceptance by a publisher.  By those standards, the Big Three of science fiction – Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein – wouldn’t stand a ghost of a chance. Neither, of course, would Henry Miller, Dorothy Parker, and a host of other greats.  Nor would Solzhenitsyn.

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Judge Not

One thing that I’ve found over the years is that people are generally really bad at judging themselves. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told something about myself that I would never have considered a defining factor – but when enough people say the same thing, there’s got to be something to it.

Apparently I’m scary (that’s the most common one). I’ve never been able to see that one, especially since I’m one of the most conflict-averse people on the planet. I’m also ridiculously stubborn, though, and when it comes to something I think needs to happen or be said I tend to go all mulish and not back down. Maybe that’s what gives the “scary” vibe? Read more

If At First You Don’t Succeed

I hesitate to say that sometimes you need to rewrite.  I hesitate to say it, because writers are crazy people, and given half a chance will spend their entire lives rewriting the One True Book, which frankly, more likely than not was never worth that much effort, and would turn out a dud in either case.

I heard Kevin J. Anderson himself compare book writing/publishing to making popcorn. You can pick the one perfect kernel, adjust the oil and heat just so… and if it’s a dud, it will never pop.  Or you can put some oil in the bottom of a pan, throw some corn in, put the lid on (important. First month of marriage, my brother and his bride forgot this step in making popcorn. My father found them, advancing on the corny artillery, using pan lids as shields.)  And chances are you’ll have a bunch of duds but also a ton of very good popcorn.

And yet, you must understand that analogy above is the whole and complete range of your choices. Let me explain Read more

Hard Labor

What a week. Not my favorite. Mind your self-care, friends. Make doubly sure you are getting the fiddly bits slotted into the right places so you keel is even. It makes everything less onerous. Perhaps not easy, per se, but much easier than otherwise. Let us say the Wee Horde is adjusting to change, perhaps better than I am.
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IP: What does it mean to you?

Hello friendly readers! This is your neighborhood Mad Scientist dashing in to say that we need your data.

We here at the Mad Genii are gearing up to do a series on intellectual property, what it means, how to deal with it, and etcetera. We’d like your input as to what you’d like to see us cover, and what you already know, so we don’t go over old ground again.

Thanks very much!

Whoops… lab coat, check, steel toed shoes, check, where’s my hard hat? Gotta run before something gets a little, ah, shall we say energetic in the lab?


Pushing through

I’ve been well, sort of log-jammed with the writing and real life – we now have a roof over the family home again. (We moved an old house onto our little farm – in sections. And in the case of one of those sections, in pieces. Needless to say that’s (in the fashion of these things) merely a reveal of how much more I still have to do. And, equally needless to say, how much more it is going to cost.  I am about to try going on a writing blitz, as Barbs will be away for three weeks cat sitting our son’s cat… while I cat and dogsit ours. They’re less hassled by me working irregular hours (into the small hours of the night when I work best) than my wife is, so here’s hoping. Read more

How long does recovery take?

We’re all familiar with the terrible trope of action movies (and cop shows) where a guy takes a bullet, and then in the end of the episode, he has his arm in a sling, but he’s all better by the end of the movie / very next episode. In the really real world, people don’t end up with a little artistic bruising or smudge of blood or soot, and walk, run, and fight perfectly…acrobatically and dramatically.
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