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Posts by Cedar Sanderson

Competence Porn

The First Reader hates the term, because it has negative connotations. Competence does not mean perfect. We should all like competent heroes. Take Miles Vorkosigan for instance. He was competent, but far from perfect. 

Last week, I was in Texas (this weekend, I’m in Kentucky. I really need to settle down and spend some time at home one of these days…). I was there for other reasons, but while I was there I had the amazing pleasure of meeting up with most of the North Texas Writers and Shooters Association. It was a bracing experience for the writer in me, since I realized I’d missed the company of writers badly. The chance to talk about all the little details we get into here on the blog, but accompanied by very good food, and stories told by some extremely competent people. Read more

Haut Couture 2080 in Space

I haven’t gone off the deep end, really. And yes, that’s a date in the headline, but I pulled it out of thin air. Reality is that what I’m speculating about in this post could be possible in, say 2080. If not sooner. Cutting-edge science and the garment industry aren’t exactly strangers, and the idea of being able to… I’m getting ahead of myself. Read more

Lashing the Muse

So I have a problem. On one hand, I want to write, and am delighted when the muse awakens and sends tendrils of stories out into my head so I can write them down. On the other hand, when those tendrils become tentacles of the kraken and threaten to take over my brain… that’s a problem. I need to find a balance. A way to bottle up the muse, so to speak, and only let it out when I can actually write, because there’s a fair amount of time when I can’t. Or at least, when it’s highly inconvenient to have the muse tickling at my backbrain while I’m supposed to be concentrating on something else.

So, what I need to do is lash the muse to the bowsprit, and stick wax in my ears, and only once we’re past the sirens, let her go again to infect me with the madn… er, stories. Unfortunately, so far my attempts at this have yielded a sulky muse who tends to plop down on deck and fold her arms and stubbornly pout when I remove the lashings. This is less than ideal.

I can’t let her loose all the time. When it’s a particularly loud story, with a bright voice to the main character (and if it were that voice on the side character, I’m writing the story down wrong), it’s hard to keep my mind on the day job. As much as I enjoy writing, I can’t afford to make it my day job and give up science (for many good and complex reasons, not just because Science!) Look, you, being a Mad Scientist requires a higher degree than I’ve got. And more madness. I’m just.. I dunno. I’m an aspiring Mad Scientist. Maybe someday.

So the muse needs to be locked up, at least some of the time. I mean, it would be easy to lock her up and throw away the key. Um. I think it would be easier. I will admit I’ve not tried to actually do that. I have enough trouble with my brain wanting to explore all the shiny interests, trying to force it to focus on only one thing at a time usually backfires. So stopping writing altogether might be like that. It would leak.

The stories leak. I find myself wandering around work, with half my brain off in another universe. It’s not safe. So I write when I can, which is less than I’d like. When I finally get to the place and time where I can sit down to the story, I’m too tired to string together coherent words into anything other than, possibly, vogon poetry. I’m pretty sure there’s no market for that, except possibly as an interrogation method, and even then you’ve got Geneva Convention violations, inter-Galactic war crime trials, not to mention the interrogators whose brain has leaked out their ears. It’s no use.

So I keep steering through the straits of Charybdis, with Scylla sucking on one side and the whirlpool of distraction on the other. And the damn muse keeps snatching the wheel when I’m not looking and pointing us at those story sirens. Spoiled brat.

(Header image ‘Clown Pong’ digital art by Cedar Sanderson)


Nibbled by Ducks

I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year, not really. Instead, I’m trying to refocus on writing and remake daily habits around writing. It’s a good thing I’m not doing NaNo, because yesterday I was nibbled to death by ducks.

I actually like ducks. Both in real life, and the end result of my fate yesterday, which did not actually involve feathered friends, or terminal anything. Ducks aren’t as savage as geese, nor as disconcertingly dinosaurian as chickens are. They are, however, very messy. And baby ducks poop, a lot. Like – how the heck did that squishy downy adorable body fit all that inside of it? Baby ducks poop, and eat, and poop more. Also, they play in their water, which is their nature, but you can imagine the mess it makes of their brooder. Anyway… I really am going somewhere with this, and it’s not just a nostalgic look back at the barn yard. Read more

Finicky Fonts and how to Find Them

So last week we talked about book cover rules, and I briefly touched on fonts, among other things. I didn’t want to dive into any of the rules, since that post could easily have become a book (a short book, but still) and that’s not the point. Today, I’m going to dig into fonts, at least enough to get the interested started. A good font choice can make a book cover sing to the potential reader like a siren to the sailors. A bad font can repulse them like the sleaze in front of a dive bar. Since we want to seduce the reader and that process begins from their first glimpse of a book, we want to put some time and energy into selecting the right elements for the cover. Read more

7 Rules for Cover Design

I feel like I harp on this topic. Covers, cover art, cover design… if it’s ever too much, tell me. Here’s the thing, though. It’s not just that I’m an artist and designer and I enjoy the process of book creation. It’s that even though people will say they don’t care about a book cover, they actually do. They will totally judge your book by it’s cover. And your book cover signals a lot about your book, whether you are conscious of it, or not. Every little choice, from font to color focus, says something about the book. I think by now everyone reading this knows the cardinal rule of a book cover: cover art is a marketing tool, not a scene from the book. Sure, there are rare exceptions where a scene depiction works as cover art. But it’s not common, and besides that, the second rule of book cover design is: it absolutely must be legible at thumbnail sizes. Read more

Something Wicked this Way…

What evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows… 

I didn’t grow up reading comic books. There were reasons: I’ve been reading, and a fast reader, since I was probably 4, and comic books were not a good return on my tiny book allowance. Also, I didn’t grow up in an urban setting. Books were hard to come by, and I clung to them. Clung to them bitterly when the time came to move and I had to thin them down to the necessaries over and over through life. Also, I grew up in a very religious household, and there were books I just wasn’t allowed to read (although I will say that comics were never on the verbally forbidden list – that dubious honor went to two authors when I was allowed free range at the library. I was not supposed to read Robert Heinlein or Danielle Steele. I never bothered with the latter. The former… well, how do you think I wound up here?). So to recap: I was a bitter clinger to my books, my Bible, and my guns (ok, my parent’s guns, which yes, I was taught to shoot). Stay with me, here, I’m going somewhere.  Read more