Month: May 2013 Page 1 of 2

The Heavy Lifting We Do for Story, or Reminiscing about Dragonlance

So everyone has a few books, movies–stories–from childhood that don’t bear examination.  My childhood went on longer than most in that respect (and is still going on), and so I’m going to use the first Dragonlance series as my example here, which I didn’t read until early college.  I was an English major, and was being thoroughly trained to think I should have known better.

Than to read them, than to like them.

I ate them up in huge gulps.

Recently I went back to reread them.  It was a hard thing, because they didn’t catch me up and pull me in the way they used to.  They were no longer perfect books.  I saw them in a harsher light than I ever had back in college, under the thumbs of people who were trying to instill a love of complexity and richness in words in me.

They still had something, though.

Character–they still had character.  And plot.   That great big arc of plot.  I reread them and enjoyed them and cursed them for trying to tell an eight-book story in three books (they later went back and filled in more than eight books in side trilogies–which I never read).  They stuck with me in a way that other, supposedly better books never did.  The Dragonlance books had something that stayed with me, year after year, change after change.

They were still good books.  I remembered almost everything in them, twenty years later.  I remember them better than I remember most of the people I met in college, and most of the things I did.  And that is saying something: more real than real.

But the person who had made them into perfect books was me.

I filled in the gaps.  I wanted so hard to believe that I repaired all flaws, added all omissions, and elevated what was slapdash.  I didn’t just suspend disbelief but roll up my sleeves and get to work.  They left me a lot of heavy lifting to do, and I did it with a will.

The more I learn as a writer, the more tolerant I become of problems in books.  Some things are still hard to swallow.  I still feel a clench in the gut when I pick up something I know well, and it falls apart upon examination, when I realize just how much of what made that book wonderful was my imagination smoothing over the gaps in what a writer actually put on the page.  But I forgive most of it.

There is something there that lasts beyond my analysis, beyond any conscious judgement of plot or character or description or pace.

Story.

I’m a writer.  And I’ve loved reading as far back as I can remember.  I spend a lot of time just listening to people, figuring out how to push their buttons so they will open up and tell me stories.

But what is story?

I’ve been familiar with story all these years, and yet when I try to look straight at it–the better I get at writing, the more I realize that I can’t see it that way.

Story is when you can relive a book twenty years later.  Story is when you quote movies in a conversation.  Story is when a falsehood comes up in conversation and you burst out laughing because you read a book that skewered that particular lie so thoroughly that you’ll never be taken in by it again.  Story is something that lives in you after the book or movie or whatever is gone.

I believe is story.  Fanfic is story (like Looney Toons parodying Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath).  Wanting to escape your real world and live there is story.  Story is a t-shirt, a meme on the Internet.

Not plot, not something you can get at consciously.  Something for which you will do whatever heavy lifting is necessary.

Where am I even getting with this?

Maybe, as kids, we were wiser than we knew.  I’m comfortable with that statement.  Or: Writing classes didn’t teach me much about story.  Literature classes, okay, some of them did, but not the writing classes.  Also a comfortable statement.  How about, “When working on writing a good book, maybe there’s more to it than you can really analyze.”  Also okay.

But–there’s also this uncomfortable feeling that goes with this.

Story rides in your subconscious first.

This means I may never be able to consciously control a story.  It’s so deep that I can’t get at it.   Maybe I can dig out my channels so that story can flow out unimpeded, but all the analysis in the world won’t give me story.  Faith might give me a good story.  Practice.  But not analysis.

I don’t like that.

And yet – some writers find out how to do it consistently.  Some writers have a book or two that you remember.  One series maybe.  But some writers do it over and over and over.  They have hits and misses – and yet.  Story in every one of them.

I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong.  But it feels like those are the ones who also don’t leave a lot of heavy lifting for the reader, either.  Well-crafted books don’t necessarily make for a good story, and a good story doesn’t necessarily have to reside inside a well-crafted book…but for consistency, it seems like having both is the way to go.

New Kids’ Fiction: Guinea Pig Apocalypse

You can get Guinea Pig Apocalypse at these online retailers, with more to come: AmazonKoboSmashwords.  B&N had issues when I went to post the story so it’s running late, should be up tomorrow.  Amazon’s alllllmost there.  I can feel it.

Pleeeeaase keep in mind that this is middle-grade fiction, ages 9-13 or so, and read this before giving to kids younger than that.  Some Guinea pigs die, and the word “poop” is used a goodly amount.

Guinea Pig Apocalypse, by De Kenyon

Guinea Pig Apocalypse

by De Kenyon

Galileo’s mad-scientist parents have done it again: invented something that got completely out of control.  This time, it’s a matter replicator in their basement.  And a squirrel army out to get rid of the humans.  And lots…and LOTS of Guinea pigs out of sewage.  Yuck!

Now it’s up to Galileo and his friend, the giant Guinea pig Max, to stop the pigs from being mind-controlled by the squirrels and taking over the world!

New Kids’ Novella: Guinea Pig Apocalypse

You can get Guinea Pig Apocalypse at these online retailers, with more to come: AmazonKoboSmashwords.  B&N had issues when I went to post the story so it’s running late, should be up tomorrow.  Amazon’s alllllmost there.  I can feel it.

Update: Now with B&N availability!

Pleeeeaase keep in mind that this is middle-grade fiction, ages 9-13 or so, and read this before giving to kids younger than that.  Some Guinea pigs die, and the word “poop” is used a goodly amount.

Guinea Pig Apocalypse, by De Kenyon

Guinea Pig Apocalypse

by De Kenyon

Galileo’s mad-scientist parents have done it again: invented something that got completely out of control.  This time, it’s a matter replicator in their basement.  And a squirrel army out to get rid of the humans.  And lots…and LOTS of Guinea pigs out of sewage.  Yuck!

Now it’s up to Galileo and his friend, the giant Guinea pig Max, to stop the pigs from being mind-controlled by the squirrels and taking over the world!

 

New Kids’ Novella: Guinea Pig Apocalypse

You can get Guinea Pig Apocalypse at these online retailers, with more to come: Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords.  B&N had issues when I went to post the story so it’s running late, should be up tomorrow.  Amazon’s alllllmost there.  I can feel it.

Update: Now with B&N availability!

Pleeeeaase keep in mind that this is middle-grade fiction, ages 9-13 or so, and read this before giving to kids younger than that.  Some Guinea pigs die, and the word “poop” is used a goodly amount.

Guinea Pig Apocalypse, by De Kenyon

Guinea Pig Apocalypse

by De Kenyon

Galileo’s mad-scientist parents have done it again: invented something that got completely out of control.  This time, it’s a matter replicator in their basement.  And a squirrel army out to get rid of the humans.  And lots…and LOTS of Guinea pigs out of sewage.  Yuck!

Now it’s up to Galileo and his friend, the giant Guinea pig Max, to stop the pigs from being mind-controlled by the squirrels and taking over the world!

On Grimdark: or popup subgenres on the greater froth of story

Grimdark:  what is it?  I had no idea until recently, other than it pisses off authors who are labeled with it.  So I looked it up.  This turned out to be a bad idea, because it’s a bigger subject than I should probably get into at six-thirty in the morning on a school day with a cheesecake to drop off.  But let me sum up.

The term grimdark is based on a tagline from the Warhammer 40K franchise:  “In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.”  Huh.  Very cool. My googled sources (and let me note that you cannot AVG a search term, so get off my @#$%^&* browser, you piece of @#$% sneakware) say that the term “grimdark” is often used to mock that which it describes.  Apparently it started out as a description for fanfic, and seems to be used now on everything from My Little Pony to Emo.  Mark Lawrence, whose Prince of Thrones and King of Thrones books I just finished recently (and loved) and who is getting called one of the fathers/founders/major writers of grimdark fiction, seems to be rolling his eyes about the label.  I also see it being used as a critical term, as in “Grimdark = sexist.”

The thing that interests me is watching a subgenre forming.

I’m in the middle of this one.   I wasn’t in the middle of Steampunk.  Sorry, folks, but it turns out I just don’t give a damn about Steampunk.  It’s interesting, I like the clothes, I like the setting, but the stories themselves don’t fill any great longing in me.  I’d rather watch from the outskirts drinking my tea and trying to figure out what, other than aesthetics, it means when you stick clockwork on something and spraypaint it copper, than get down in the overly mannered mosh pit, thanks.  But I’ve always liked grim, dark stories; they do fill some great longing in me, no matter what genre I find them in.

So I finished King of Thrones last night and looked the sequel up on Amazon:  it’s not coming out until August 6.  I’m hungry for more.  Now what?

Scroll down to “Customers who bought this item also bought.”

Get enough author recommendations that cross-reference each other in Library Space, and you get a subgenre.  There’s a craving for a particular emotion, a particular type of experience–stories crystallize around it until it’s a subgenre.  If that need stays the same, the subgenre becomes more and more solid, like layers of a pearl coalescing around the irritant of that initial craving.   If the need changes, drifts into other areas, or is just too free-floating to coalesce for long, the subgenre dissolves, leaving a few framents in history, like splatterpunk.  I think “grimdark” is more of the latter type, a flash in the pan, an upwelling of aspects of horror and noir in high/epic fantasy, possibly in reaction against things like The Wheel of Time series, possibly in reaction toward Game of Thrones, that will soon move on.

Personally, I think I like grimdark, or what I think of as grimdark, because, as far as I can tell, the stories are about corrupt, calcified worlds falling to pieces and becoming subject to change–and I can really get behind that right about now.  After a generation of mostly “Good guys vs. bad guys, you can tell the difference because, um, good guys!  Yay yay yay!” I’m about ready for a change.  Plus, I grew up in the 80s, and we pretty much knew that we were going to get blown up by nukes while we huddled uselessly under desks.  This grimdark stuff just feels familiar.

Give me the Invader Zims, the Frankensteins, the Hordes, the Clockwork Oranges, the Thomas Covenants, the Red Harvests, the Dark Towers, the Heathers, the Long Price Quartets, the Bukowskis, the bad fighting the worse.  It’s not pretty, but at least it doesn’t pretend to be nice.  I want to see more characters who aren’t young white males taking a stand and being just as nasty as anyone else, but really, I’ll read this grimdark stuff anyway, because what I relate to is that sense that the established order isn’t all it’s cracked up to be–it’s just a heirarchy, and heirarchy means bullies, and we’re all part of it, so that means the bullies are us.

 

Indie Authors: to review or not to review?

If I collected all the reviews I’ve written over the years, I would probably have enough to make a novel.

But when I don’t record what I read somehow, I pick up books that I’ve read before from the library or the bookstore or whatever.  I do.  I seriously do, especially series books and nonfiction.

If I did nothing but write fiction all day, I’d have more books and stories out, and I’d be a better writer.

But if I didn’t connect to anyone–I’d be too lonely and depressed to write.

If I never wrote another review, I’d never have to worry about alienating a reader with something I’ve written, for example, if I didn’t care for their favorite author’s latest book as much as they did.  And I’d never have to cope with the Blog Comments from Hell.

But if I didn’t give props to the people who inspire me, that’s just sad.  And if I had to live in fear of what I say all the time, I might as well quit writing now.

I’ve been back and forth on the subject of writing reviews lately:  should I or shouldn’t I?  I went a while without writing them after going to a workshop where I saw–in person I saw–an editor judge someone based on something that the editor had specifically been told they couldn’t judge writers on.  It was terrifying.  Suddenly all I could think was, “What if someone judges me for something I blog about?  What if someone judges me based on a review?  Oh crap, Facebook.” And so on.

So I mostly quit blogging, quit writing reviews.  Stopped doing a lot of things on Facebook that might, someday, get held against me.

In the case of Facebook, I feel like I’m doing the right thing, because the kind of posts that I started holding back on were the kind that made me mad when other people posted the same type.  Facebook is different than blogging–not by much, but enough.  When you post, your entries show up in other people’s feeds, and a lot of time, just skimming through Facebook entries, you can easily get dragged down by negativity and hate and resentment and repetition.  And more repetition.  And more…

Blogs?  They’re different because you have to go to a blog on purpose.  The entries have titles: a hint as to what you’re getting into.   You can get surprised, but you have a choice to get surprised.  In Facebook, you can get dragged down into despair from a thousand directions without having to make more than one click.  Twitter, too.

And book reviews?  You have to go looking for them, most of the time.  You have to want to know.

That’s not to say reviews and blogs don’t need some gentleness.  They do.  Blogs and reviews need to be generous, I think.  And short, because novels are otherwise not getting written.  Short stories.  This blog is easily a flash fiction–about 500 words.

But I didn’t get into this writing business in order to not express myself.  There’s wisdom…and then there’s life.   Now that I know a little more of the cost of being out in the world, I’ll do it differently.  But I still want to be there.

 

Updated Cover: The Business that Must Be Conducted in the Dark

Ta-daaa!  This cover has now been branded 🙂  You can pick it up at Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Apple, or Smashwords.  First published at Silverthought Online.

In other news, Ray has approved “Guinea Pig Apocalypse” with minor changes.  I hope to get Haunted Empire up as an ebook this week, but we’ll see – I’m also planning to turn it into a short print book.  Fingers crossed.

 

The Business that Must Be Conducted in the Dark, by DeAnna Knippling

The Business that Must Be Conducted in the Dark

by DeAnna Knippling

Annalise thought she knew her programming: take care of Master Zorac in all ways. But especially, and most deliciously, sexually. Then Master Zorac runs away from their Mistress, and Annalise discovers that her programming is more complex than she ever knew.

Master Zorac has joined a group of men, rebelling against their Mistresses. And he’s not afraid of using Annalise’s programming to his own ends.

New Ghost Story: A Ghost Unseen

You can get it at these online retailers, with more to come: AmazonB&NKoboApple, or Smashwords.

A Ghost Unseen, by DeAnna Knippling

A Ghost Unseen

DeAnna Knippling

The realtor told her the house was haunted by the ghost of a four-year-old kid who’d drowned in the pool in the 1960s. But that’s not why she bought the house: she’d bought it because the front room had a gorgeous bay window…and was painted the color of spattered blood. For years she’s waited to see the ghost, but now she has to face the truth: she’s never going to see it.

She’s running out of time…and she’s just going to have to act on faith.

Call for Participants: Wild-Ass Novel Project

Writer Friends in COS/DEN area: I want to try something weird, a collaborative novel project using a particular technique. The specifics (like genre) will vary on who/how many/where the people are who want to jump in. I want to run this something like a writer group, where we meet for a couple of hours and write: like, 1/2hr kibitiz, an alarm goes off, and we speed-write for an hour or so, the alarm goes off, and done.

I want this to be a NON STRESS project, a fun/learning project. There will be no critiquing. When we’re done we can decide what, if anything, to do with it. This is just to get writing and look at plotting.

OWNers and people taking the DWS online workshops: This is the novel-in-a-weekend project, just not in a weekend.

Drop me a line if you’re interested, and I’ll get a conversation started somewhere convenient.

Updated Covers This Week: Zombie Girl Invasion and Attack of the 50-Foot Sushi Monster

Here are this week’s cover updates!

Zombie Girl Invasion, by De Kenyon

Zombie Girl Invasion. Not just girl germs…Zombie Girl germs!

and…

Attack of the 50-Foot Sushi Monster, by De Kenyon

Attack of the 50-Foot Sushi Monster.  Sometimes playing with your food can be deadly!

In other news…I am printing out Guinea Pig Invasion for my daughter Ray to read and approve, so I probably won’t get the ebook up this week.  She has really good instincts for this kind of thing.  I had another picture picked out for “Sushi,” which was an octopus tentacle coming out of a takeout box, but she was like, “Mom.  That is not a kid picture.”  She was right.  She was right.

So instead of waiting, I think I’ll get “A Ghost Unseen” formatted and up this week.

Next up for new covers: Haunted Empire and “The Business that Must Be Conducted in the Dark.”

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