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Posts from the ‘MARGARET BALL’ Category

Finish it!

A couple of days ago Amanda mentioned what is possibly the single best reason for finishing what you’re working on: if you don’t finish, you have nothing to sell.

Now, it hasn’t always been quite that way. Back when traditional publishing was the only game in town, a lot of books got sold on the three-chapters-and-synopsis system: you submit the first three chapters and a synopsis of the rest of the story, and if the publisher likes it and trusts you to finish the work, you get a contract and an advance; usually half on signing and half when you submit the completed manuscript and they find it acceptable. Naturally there were a few writers who got book contracts on this basis and then couldn’t deliver. But there were very few who got a second book contract after failing to deliver on the first. And so the system staggered along… and to tell the truth, I liked it just fine. The prospect of investing all that work in a book and then discovering that nobody would buy it gave me hives. I felt a lot more financially secure with that steady stream of book contracts and staggered completion dates.

But after a while, editors started complaining that an unusual number of new writers were able to write a gripping opening but lacked the skills to carry the story through to the end. Well, what did they expect? They were selecting for the ability to grab the reader in those first chapters. Read more

Steak as well as cookies

Sarah has mentioned the importance of “reader cookies” – those genre allusions and tropes, or better, tropes turned upside down, that keep the reader happy as he goes through the book.

But what happens when you get a book that’s nothing but cookies? How long does that keep you happy? In my case – not very long.

I recently came across a case in point, a comic novel written around the Norman invasion of England in 1066. You might think that’s not a great subject for comedy, but the writer pulled it off… sort of… tongue firmly planted in cheek, in the style of 1066 and All That, but applied to fiction. For the first few chapters I kept chuckling at the irreverent views and up-ending of conventional wisdom, reading specially good bits aloud to the First Reader. Read more

A modest proposal

I’ve been under the weather again and devoid of great thoughts about writing other than yeah, sure would be nice to sit up and do some. So in lieu of exciting new stuff, I’m going to repeat a recent proposal from my personal blog. Hey, it’s about language. Writers use language. It’s relevant.

Recently I came across an opinion column in the New York Times whose author, whom I’ll refer to as F.M. because I don’t want to give F.M. extra attention, complained bitterly about the oppression of traditional English-language third-person gendered pronouns. Yes. Referring to someone as “he” or “she” isn’t just a feature of the way our language developed; it would never happen if, in F.M.’s words, “we were not all so irredeemably obsessed by the particulars of the parts dangling between our fellow humans’ legs, nor the ridiculous expectations signified by those parts about how we should act and speak and dress and feel.”

Huh? Read more

Why read me when there are new books out?

Seriously, you’ve got science fiction and fantasy options for your pleasure!

Alma Boykin just released the long-awaited pre-apocalypse book, Fountains of Mercy, that explains where the ColPlatScki Originally came from, and just who exactly were the desperate original colonists who became beatified and unrecognizable legends all those years later?
Fountains of Mercy: Book 8 of the Colplatschki Chronicles by [Boykin, Alma T. C. ]

When the fires dance in the sky, the great machines will fail, and the people will rise…

Colonial Plantation LTD can’t decide what to do with Solana, also called ColPlat XI. Should it be a nature preserve, a living museum of pre-industrial techniques, or a standard colony? As the bureaucrats wrangle, a solar storm disrupts technology and reveals deep rifts between the colonists and their administrators.

Susanna “Basil” Peilov clawed her way out of the slums and wants nothing to do with the Company. Peter Babenburg just wants to build his water system and stay out of trouble. When the sky-fires come, Basil, Peter, and their families and friends stand between the colony and chaos. Company administrators assure everyone that replacement parts and assistance is coming, will come. Without those supply ships from the stars, everything falls apart and the colony will die. All that people can do is wait and hope for rescue.

The administrators never planned on facing a group of engineers, a crazy farmer and his wives, and colonists determined to protect their home. Hope comes from some unlikely places, and courage takes eccentric shapes.
Get it here!

And Margaret Ball just came out with the second in the spin-off series from her Austin mathemagicians!
Dragon Scales (Dragon Speech Book 2) by [Ball, Margaret]

It’s one thing to meet a dragon in the snowbound mountains of the High Pamirs.

It’s another to entertain him when he shows up at your Austin home, along with his sulky and all-too-human teenage girlfriend!

Linguist Sienna Brown battles a shapeshifting dragon who helps himself to her clothes and demands enormous quantities of pizza, a teenager whose ignorance of American customs doesn’t prevent her from picking up every man she meets, a nosy neighbor, and a group of Russian thugs who are tasked with acquiring the dragon for their own country.

In addition, her boyfriend is terrified that the dragon’s presence will tempt her to use its magical but brain-injuring native language. And he’s not entirely wrong about that…

Get it here!

Characters We Love to Loathe

No, not the Evil Warlord or his minions. I’m thinking of the characters that spice up a story by being Good but Irritating, or even Morally Neutral but Obnoxious. The ones that keep you reading not just because you want to see your hero save the world, but because you want to see Obnoxious meet his comeuppance, or because you laugh every time Monumentally Tactless splashes the other characters’ social strategies in their faces, or because it looks as though Good but Irritating may frustrate the hero’s personal desires even while helping him save the world. Read more

Seeing through a glass, darkly

Unhurried imagination.

That phrase occurred in a passage Amanda quoted in her Tuesday column, and it… so to speak… caught my imagination. Because that’s not how my imagination – or Amanda’s, to judge from her comments – works. Ha! Imagination should only be so polite as to present itself in long, leisurely segments that fit my typing speed! It tends more to arrive with the speed and finesse of a runaway train!

A long time ago Diana Gabaldon told me something about her writing process that exactly described my own (Yeah, I know, too bad my results aren’t as wildly successful as hers). I’ll try to paraphrase from memory: Read more

The stories we shouldn’t be telling

I don’t really know how much of a “trend” this is, but in my casual, work-avoiding browsing of current events I sure have seen a lot of stories about “trans” women, i.e. men who have decided to call themselves women, running away with the prizes in women’s sporting events. Apparently the Doctrine of Infinite Sexual Mutability trumps minor considerations of reality, such as the fact that individuals who were “men” up to and throughout adolescence before “transitioning” are going to be bigger, faster, stronger than actual women in later life, regardless of how they manipulate their testosterone levels.

So? What did we expect? Read more