Friday, August 31, 2012

The Plantser

Hybrids are all the rage. I can only think of two other examples, cars and fiction writing careers, but I don’t know how many occurrences are required before something becomes a rage. Three it is!

In the eternal war between pantsers and plotters, I have been on the side of the pantsers. If you aren’t a writer and therefore haven’t ever seen the word “pantser” and are confused and angry (I can still barely contain my fury at the term), let me clarify. A pantser writes by the seat of his or her pants, I guess. They let the story go where it will, writing whatever comes to mind, in other words. This is how I’ve always written fiction.

A year ago (a year!), I explained how the cover of Pulling Teeth represents my writing style. I understand my story as I tell it. I only conceive of a story on a very shallow level before I write it.

This woman talks about pantsering always leading to flabby writing. She might have been talking about non-narrative nonfiction, although it seems obvious that you would need an outline to write that sort of work. Anyway, if she was also referring to fiction, I’m the individual who turns her into a liar (why 100%? Why not play it safe and say 99%?). I have to plan out divergences or my plot flies straight as a bullet and I end up with less than I need.

Anyway, in the process of writing The Hoard, I discovered a new style of writing: the pantser/plotter hybrid AKA THE PLANTSER! One of the major problems I’ve faced in my writing of longer pieces is that my process really bogs down during Act 2. I didn’t have the luxury of writing at my own pace with The Hoard. I’d promised the manuscript one a certain date. So when things slowed down after Act 1, I knew I had to flip the script.

My usual Act 2 writing style is to think of the next scene for the hour before I get out of bed. In that dreamy state, the scene pretty much writes itself. While this technique ensures that I never have writers block, I only get a few pages, and I needed to write more than a few pages a day on The Hoard to finish the book on time. So I started outlining.

Before the pantsers burn me at the stake, hear what I learned! It was easy to outline and stay true to the characters after I had fully discovered them during Act 1. Thus, a horrible chimera was born!

I don’t know a character before I write about them. I can’t fill out one of those character trait catalogs and come out with a realistic person. That occurs during the writing process. But it occurs early on during the writing process. Basically, it happens during act 1, which I’ve never had any problem writing.

So now I pantser Act 1, letting the characters come to life and letting the story take the shape it wants. Then I create an outline, though I will never be a slave to it. I will always allow for new surprises.

A side benefit of becoming a plantser is that I get to try Scrivener, which everyone has been talking about. It never seemed to offer an advantage for my style of writing, but now that I’m going to be outlining, I’d like a more efficient way to do it. I think Scrivener will help assure that I meet the word count requirements that DarkFuse has given me.

We’ll see how it goes, but from what I’ve already experienced, my productivity is about to go through the roof.

Anyway, if you want to try this technique, you only have to pay me a billion dollars. Hey, if Apple can do it...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Words in Descriptions

Book descriptions. They have words in them. There are a lot of words to read in a day, so when I get to certain words, I just stop reading the description. Finishing would be a waste of time, because 99% of the time I’m not interested in reading a book of the type these words imply.
Sub-theme: I’m a hypocrite.

1. Detective – This one is a great time saver because it’s so often the first word in the description. “Detective Copper thinks he’s only one day away from retiring…” I don’t like law-enforcement officers as protagonists. It eliminates a lot of conflict and moral tension, because they are imbued with the authority to do things average people aren’t. They also have more resources.
Exceptions: private investigators.
I’m a hypocrite: a perspective character in Psychomancer is a CIA agent. However, she does go rogue.

2. Zombie – I am very bored with zombies, I have been for a long while, and I’m not the only horror writer of this opinion. Too much identical stuff. Yes, we all know that man is ultimately his own worst enemy, and when barricaded in a safe place will eventually self-destruct. Yes, science run amuck. I pretty much always end up bored, and that’s the only thing I can’t forgive.
I’m a hypocrite: one of my favorite of my own short stories is a zombie story, “Normal, Daily Activities.”  One day, I hope someone else will enjoy it.

3. Teenager – I don’t like books about young people. That’s a problem for a horror reader, because a really disproportionate amount of horror is written about young protagonists. I guess it’s because we were more easily scared back then, and the author hopes that by getting his readers to empathize with a teen, they’ll rediscover some of that scareability (I know, I’m having trouble with words right now). Also, teens have even less power than adults, so that ratchets up the tension and story possibilities (the opposite of a law enforcement officer protagonist).
That’s all valid, but I still don’t like reading about kids. Even when I was a kid I didn’t read about kids.
I’m a hypocrite: the protagonist of Blood Tells True is 17.

4. God, Sin, Church – Occasionally I find a horror novel involving religion engaging. Often, I find myself unable to empathize with the characters, and uninterested in the themes explored. If I decide to keep reading after finding a religious word in a description, it’s because something else has caught my attention.
I’m a hypocrite: The description of Burden Kansas mentions sin a number of times, and the book has a church-service scene, and ends with a discussion of the nature of God and forgiveness.

5. Serial killer – Almost as boring as zombies. The antagonist is almost guaranteed to be 2-dimensional and will typically have a ridiculous theme. I can’t even think of a serial killer thriller I’ve enjoyed, though I’ve read a surprising number of them.
I’m a hypocrite: the antagonist in Psychomancer basically has a license to serial kill.

I’m sure there are more. I’m quite cantankerous. I just can’t think of anymore right now.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Hoard Happenings

DarkFuse has been doing a lot of stuff for The Hoard, recently. If you’re a fan or friend on facebook (more on that later) then you’ve probably seen a lot of this. But for those who haven’t:

The Hoard announced on the darkfuse blog (which you should follow).

The Hoard at Ordering info will eventually go here.

2 Sample chapters. This is one of those times when I feel I shouldn’t write such short chapters.

The Hoard’s goodreads page. Maybe add it to your to-read list!

The Hoard’s Facebook page.  If you follow one thing, follow this. It is the hub. There are going to be giveaways and other festivities leading up to the release of the book. If you’d like to be kept up-to-date, like this page. Note: DarkFuse controls this page, so this isn’t going to be redundant info if you’re already my friend/fan on facebook. If you want to know what’s going on, it really is best to just like this page.

This all brings up the issue of social networking redundancy. If you follow my blog, my twitter, my facebook account and my facebook page, then you might hear the same news 4 times in a row. I automatically feed my blog into google+, and sometimes also post it on twitter and my 2 FBs. There’s so much cross-posting that I fear annoying people, but I fear leaving people in the dark more.

Let me say this: if you are both a friend and a fan on facebook, then drop one. My facebook account has everything my fan page does, but not the other way around. IE, I post goofy stuff and important announcements on my “friending” account, while I try to just post important announcements on my “liking” page.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Savoring the Fruits of My Good Luck

One more week of fulltime work. One more week, EVER. It’s hard to describe the joy I’m feeling. I’m going to half-time after that, to give me time to work on my DarkFuse stuff. My first novella is due frighteningly soon.

I think I’ll be good financially. The Hoard isn’t even out yet and the promotion has already boosted the sales of my other books. Here’s the thing, I feel like I would hate someone talking about this, and I don’t even think I’m an envious person. But I can’t help it. Sweet beardo in heaven above, the joy that flows through me whenever I think about it almost gives me physical orgasms. And I don’t even hate my job. I like my job just fine. But 9 hours of it in a row? That’s insane.

So one more week of fulltime work. After that, it’s 1-5 pm. Four hours is just about the time I start to get crazy bored.

There was a study recently about the “millennial” generation that says they buy a disproportionate number of books. People seem shocked that the “millennial” generation reads at all. What shocks me is that they’re called “the millennial generation” instead of “generation y”. The other thing that shocks me is that I’m apparently part of this millennial generation. At least a few people who decide this sort of thing include 1979 as the last year of generation x. This counts it as the first year of the millennials. I think someone needs to take responsibility for conclusively telling us all which generation we belong to.

But I do read a lot, so maybe I am a millennial. I’ve been averaging 4-5 novels a week. My problem is that I don’t read paper books, and my library has no ebooks. So here’s one of my career goals: to become a big enough name in the horror genre that publishers send me ARCs in hopes of blurbage. That would save me like a grand a year.

I’m still working on author pics. Trying to get something a bit edgier (hence the stubble and the pughuameranian). So to round out the narcissism:

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Book Trailer for The Hoard

I've never had a book trailer before. This makes me want to read the book.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Rich, Bold Flavor

Some people say a writer’s work is only as strong as his coffee. I’m a flavor extremist. If I’m going to drink beer, I want it to punch me in the sinuses with hops and drown me in malt. I like my food to be fatty, salty, or heavily seasoned (Indian, Korean, Vietnamese…) or some combination of all three. And I’d rather take a caffeine pill (Jet Alert with 200 mg caffeine) than drink weak coffee. Here’s how to make strong coffee.

1. Grind your beans as you go
Here is the whitest thing I’ll ever say: coffee starts going stale the moment you grind it. And that means it starts losing flavor. If you like strong coffee, you need to grind as you go. I suggest getting a burr grinder rather than a blade grinder for more consistent results and ease of use. The grounds funnel down into a container, so you don’t have to put in the exact amount of beans you want to use. You can store them in the top for later grinding. A burr grinder will also produce grounds coarse enough for a French press, which is nearly espresso. Blade grinder grounds are too dusty for the mesh.

2. Use dark beans
Duh. Use espresso roast beans.

3. Use a lot of coffee
Duh number two. The list gets more interesting from here.

4. Use a mesh coffee filter
Coffee beans are oily. A lot of the flavor is in the oil. Unfortunately, paper filters trap a lot of that oil.

5. Run the coffee through the grounds extra times
Pour the coffee back into the grounds. Stir it up if you want. Then put the pot back under and let it drip back through. Do this a couple of times, if you want.

A lot of people don’t like my coffee, or can only drink a few sips. More for me!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Penny Dreadnought: Omnibus! Volume 1 on Smashwords

If you're like me, and I know I am, you like Smashwords.  Here's the Abominable Gentlemen's latest publication, the Omnibus, now on Smashwords.

So, I don't know if you heard the news, but Goodreads won. They just hit 10,000,000 members. So while Shelfari is conveniently linked to amazon, and librarything is great for ebook giveaways, I've been working on my presence on Goodreads. Here's my profile. Let's be friends. I even switched my shelfari bookshelf over there on the sidebar for a goodreads bookshelf. See? ---->

I didn't sell out, I bought in, because they didn't pay me. I would sell out, though.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The 5 "Ch"s

My wife has cruelly gone on a business trip and left me alone this weekend. Because her name is Christina, the obvious answer is to fill the hole with as many things that also begin with "Ch" as possible.

The original once-you-pop-you-can't-stop snack, though they don't pop nor am I sure they came before Pringles. But I know for sure that once your throat clogs with mucous-y orange glue, the only cure is more.

Also known as pork rinds, scratchings and cracklins. Whenever I walk around the store with my bag of chicharronnes, I say, "Chicharron chicharron. Chicharron chicharron chicharron" in the tune of that one song that I don't know the name of. I am really annoying.

Chili Dogs
Best food ever topped with the seventh best food ever? Yes thanks! Because hot dogs topped with fried chicken is just weird.

Chicken Wings
As you can see, this whole weekend is a competition between loneliness and cardiac arrest. They're racing to see which can kill me first.

Awwww, the heart healthy Ch!


Eating salty snacks is thirsty work. After posting this, I needed some high fructose corn syrup, and so headed down the block to the convenience store. It wasn't until I got back that I realized how appropriate my choice of soda was:
Cherry Coke.

This is getting weird...

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Unphotogenic

That could be the title of a horror story.

Trying to get some new author photos before I buzz the hair off. It took about a hundred duds:

To get one keeper:

And then to add insult to injury, my wife conducted a photo shoot with the pets in which every single shot turned out beautiful:


Wow, the novel One of Us by  fellow Abominable Gentleman Iain Rowan has been nominated for the Guardian UK's Not the Booker Prize, alongside some literary heavy weights! It's a well-deserved honor.

We all know that I can't stand the equation of book length with book worth, but here's something I hadn't thought of: it diminishes our already strained ability to participate in a shared culture when reading the important new books is made impossible by their incredible length. An 800 page book obviously takes the place of 3 shorter books that could be just as important, and the argument here is that the extra length is often unimportant research, a showing of work (remember that from math class) rather than added value. Anyway, Are Books Becoming Too Long to Read? 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

July Reads

So it looks like I’ve been slacking this month. Appearances are deceiving! Just as the scrawny Bruce Banner contains the gigantic Hulk, just beneath the skin of my anemic reading list lurk 2 books of such bulk that they’re spilling over into August. Tune in next month to find out what they are (Hint: Weird Tales).

Super-Cannes by JG Ballard
Humanity struggles to find equilibrium when constrained by an alien system.

The Caryatids by Bruce Sterling

Genghis: Lords of the Bow by Conn Iggulden

Genghis: Bones of the Hills by Conn Iggulden
I almost never read series books one after the other. The tension maintained in these books is pretty brilliant, such that I stuck around for like 800 pages and still wanted more.

The Best American Essays 2011 ed. Edwidge Danticat
I don’t like writers as protagonists, and I don’t think I was fully aware that these would almost all be memoire-ish creative nonfiction essays. The Zadie Smith essay on Facebook is fantastic, though.

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

High-Rise by JG Ballard
Humanity struggles to find equilibrium when constrained by an alien system.

Orphanage by Robert Buettner
Like a novelization of Starship Troopers, but the machismo is all genuine. Blech. I won’t be reading any of the rest of this series.

Satanic Summer by Andersen Prunty
You get hooked by the S&M, but stay for the really good characterization of the slacker evangelical protagonist.