an odd collection of tales about learning to do the impossible

Posts tagged ‘writing fiction’

Introvert? Empath? Good Literary Citizen? (1)

I suck at social obligations.

Three Myers Briggs tests have found me to be an off-the-chart introvert, and my abilities as an empath once made me fear I was secretly from Deanna Troi’s home planet. It’s not a great combination. If I have to go somewhere, I soak up everything around me and it leaves me drained.

This doesn’t mean I can’t function around people. I’m practiced at faking normality. (Aren’t we all?) What it does mean is if I have to deal with people for very much or for very long, I can’t write.

The first time I heard the phrase Good Literary Citizen, my heart sank.

You see, I agree with the principals behind the idea, but I’m horribly suited to putting them in practice. Over the years, I’ve found three avenues that work for me, at least in limited quantities. I’ve found corollaries of these that have the capability to be my kryptonite. This post covers one set. (Two more posts are coming.)

A Problem:

I’m from the US. Put me and a handful of other Americans in a room full of Brits and I’ll be the first one to start talking with a slightly British accent and I won’t even notice it. Yes, I have my own voice, but it’s as mutable as everything else about me. If I’m not careful, I write like the last person I read.

A Solution:

Read short things by different people, and read lots of them.

I’ve become a great fan of flash fiction. My genre is speculative, so I subscribe to Daily Science Fiction. Most days they send me a story of 1000 words or less. Some are brilliant. Occasionally one is sort of dumb. Every few days I read several of them at once. This keeps me current on themes and word choices floating around in my chosen genre, without any one author getting too deeply into my head.

Sometimes, DSF lets readers vote for stories they like. I do this to support authors who impress me. I also seek them out elsewhere and follow them or list their works as “want to read.” It’s my way of giving them a quick thumbs up before I move on to my own writing. (I also save their stories to reread and inspire me to write better.)

What to Avoid:

I avoid long novels by others, and I will not let myself get involved in a series. Not now. Not me. I can read all those great series out there when I retire from writing. I’m looking forward to it.

I also avoid authors with too distinctive of a voice. There’s nothing wrong with them; in fact some of them are great. They just aren’t for me right now. Again, someday …

As a result (1) I’m generally writing, (2) I generally sound like me, whatever that is, (3) I’m not completely out of touch with what is happening in my genre and (4) I’m doing at least something to support other authors.

I think it’s a win-win-not lose situation. Given my constraints, I’ll take it.

(This post was originally published on my blog Face Painting for World Peace, which focuses on themes like empathy and telepathy.)

Dragon’s Revenge

By the time I finished Dragon’s Revenge by C.J. Shane, I loved it.

The author attempts something difficult, and that always intrigues me. She mixes an almost abrupt telling of a modern day detective story with a lyrical, sometimes even meandering, historical document from a century earlier. At first the combination is jarring, but before long it sort of becomes hot and sour soup, or fried ice cream if you prefer. However you think of it, it works well and the rich tale she has woven from the two very different pieces captivated me.

Nearly half the book is a love story between two immigrants, one Italian and one Chinese. It’s told beautifully through the eyes of her young son, and it is both touching and believable. The prejudice shown to so many ethnicities will make you want to scream, and will possibly force you to take a hard look at some of today’s behavior, too. (At least I hope it will.)

The other piece of the story involves PI Letty Valdez helping a friend solve a murder that occurs in a university library. Of course the investigation quickly becomes far more complicated, with Letty in danger, a few tantalizing red herrings emerging, and a tie-in to the century-old love story. Ultimately, there is a satisfying ending with more than one unsavory sort getting what unsavory sorts deserve.

Letty Valdez is a wonderful character, as are most of the people who populate her life. In fact, one of my few criticisms is that perhaps too many of them are a little too wonderful. A tad more nuance and the occasional trace of a fault here and there, would probably have made the story stronger. Yet, I much prefer the direction Shane errs in to the other alternative: a story filled with alleged heroes no one can like or root for. I plan to download more Letty Valdez mysteries to my Kindle.

I readily admit that a reading experience is a combination of the skill of the writer, and the interests of the reader. Author Shane tells an interesting tale, and she tells it well. Her story also happens to intersect well with me. I’ve done a fair amount of research on immigration laws for my own writing and practically jumped out of my seat when I read about the Chinese exclusion act. I share the author’s apparent passion for social justice and her love of desert sunsets. And I practice qi gong (a relative of gong fu referred to often in the book.) So, while this is a novel I think anyone could enjoy; it is fair to disclose this is one book I could hardly have kept from appreciating.

Find the full post, with more information about the author and the blog tour this review was originally part of, at Dragon’s Revenge

Read the introduction to this series of reviews at Reviews: Giving Them

Available Now as an Audio Book!

One of One has been turned into an audio book! It wasn’t easy, and to be honest it wasn’t cheap, but worthwhile things often aren’t. I have to hope this is one of those worthwhile things.

It’s available here directly from Audible. ($13.97)

It’s available through One of One’s Amazon sales page. (Obviously just pick “audiobook.”)

It’s also on iTunes for $17.99, easily found under Audiobooks > Sci-Fi & Fantasy > S. R. Cronin.

I’m pleased with the final result. The narrator has a rich voice, honed by years of class room teaching. He’s intimately acquainted with the nuances of the story.

He built a special soundproof room in which to do this, and invested in a fair amount of professional grade equipment as well. Most chapters were recorded all or in part several times, until he was happy with the results. Then he had me listen to them and fixed anything I didn’t like.

Did I mention that I’m married to him?

No, I didn’t marry him in order to get him to record the book; we’ve already been married for a while. He offered to do this under a pen name for me, so it wouldn’t sound like I was related to my narrator. I declined. I think its kind of cool the way it is.

I was also very happy with the local (Asheville) sound engineer we found to turn our DIY efforts into something more polished. For a non-trivial but also not ridiculous fee, he smoothed our files into something more professional, added in a special sound for my many scene changes, created our audio sample and helped us craft the “intro and outro” sections.

Please listen to our sample and see what you think.

 

And the winner, she is ….

It’s hard to find a simple explanation for this preponderance of woman SFF writers. One could guess it is because the world has become more welcoming to women pursuing dreams of all kinds. But that should result in something more like woman being half the nominees, not most of them.

It is true that women as a group tend to be more verbal than men.  (Yes, men tend to be more mathematical. I’ve no quarrel with statistics, only a quarrel with extending those generalizations into making assumptions about individuals, or to making assumptions about why the tendencies exist in the first place. Life is complicated.)

Anyway, today’s world of SFF writers could, in part, reflect the fact that women make up a larger percentage of the writing and the reading community in general.

Read more of my thoughts about why woman dominate the awards these days for best SFF fiction at And the winner, she is ….

(Read more about my other Worldcon adventures at An Irish Worldcon: I’m here!,  at Feeling at home and at Forward into the Past.)

… is still a thousand miles.

You know what? It was a LOT of work to get this all the way done. Not fun creative stuff, but I-just-want-to-quit-this-shit-and-go-take-a-nap type work.

Why stick with it?

Read more at … is still a thousand miles.

That’s her!

Looking at it forced me to see other photos of this model, however, and I found several I liked so much better. Doesn’t she look so much more interesting in the other three photos?

I persuaded DDD to try an edgier look and I was happy with the result. So were most people in my informal focus group, although one person thought she now looked slutty. Sigh …. Not what I intended.

Read more at That’s her!

So that’s what she really looks like?

When it came time to create the last cover, we needed Teddie to make a second appearance, but not with an identical face. This particular model had dozens of photos to choose from, but unfortunately many of them had to do with selling beauty products.

Read more at So that’s what she really looks like?

So that’s what he really looks like?

Lucky for me, my sister disagreed. She didn’t know what Alex looked like either, but she was so positive it wasn’t this that she went to Shutterstock and emailed me photos of several other models.

Okay, it looked like we’d have to find another Alex. Option one she sent was clearly too young, but the other six could work. I went searching for any of them.

Read more at So that’s what he really looks like?

How does he really look?

When it came time to create the last cover, we needed Zane to make a second appearance, but not with an identical face. This particular model did have many options to choose from, but unfortunately most of them weren’t so appropriate for the sort of book I was writing.

Read more at How does he really look?

How does she really look?

When I first wrote One of One (called x0 at the time) I was obsessed with giving form to my mental picture of Lola, the main character. I wished I could draw well enough to show the world how she looked. I can’t, so I scoured Shutterstock for artists images that captured what I was seeing in my mind. These were some of my favorites.

Read more at How does she really look?

The fifth one

Then, someone pointed snag number two out to me. They thought Cillian, who is supposed to be in his forties, looked a little too old and could even be mistaken for Ariel’s father Alex, who is in his fifties. At first I didn’t think so, but upon reflection I saw the vague resemblance.

Read the end of the cover saga for the fifth book at The fifth one

How much changes in six years?

My book Layers of Light is not only about human trafficking and female heroes, it is a book about the obstacles faced by women everywhere. It was written before the Me Too movement, and before we had a major candidate for president who was a woman. It was written before “grab ’em by the pussy” and Stormy Daniels. In some ways, it feels to me as if it comes out of a more naive time. How much of the world of 2019 should go into a rewrite?

Read more at How much changes in six years?

Coming down the slide in 10 days

There was the first rush of panic, followed by a whoosh of tummy tickling pleasure, then a sadness to have it end, probably 30 seconds or so after it started. It was usually followed by an irrational desire to get in line and do it again.

It’s been a while since I’ve done that, but the past three months have had a similar feel. With each new novel I’ve released, the level of complexity of the tasks has increased, making each slide seem higher and feel more twisty.

Read more about Coming down the slide in 10 days.

Learning to Juggle

Honestly, this is all too much to hold in my head at once. I keep checking my spreadsheet thinking I’m forgetting some essential component somewhere. There’s got to be something I’m forgetting.

Read more about being in various stages of revising five different books at once at Learning to Juggle.

Watch what you ask for

Do you get what you want, or do you get what you need?

I had a spirited discussion about this once with a psychologist. I was praising the wisdom of the Rolling Stones; she was sharing her professional observations. We were at a party and it was lucky no nearby cynic entered the conversation arguing people don’t get either.

It is a conundrum, though, isn’t it. You ask for something you think you want, only to discover….

Read the latest update on the saga of the search for the perfect cover at Watch what you ask for.

Note the story ended well. I’m delighted with the final cover, shown here.

A New Look

I’m also particularly pleased with the title of this one, and the way the fine people at Deranged Doctor Design added light to represent what Teddie insists on calling the world of mist.

Now, my job is to make sure the story itself is worthy of all this.

Read more at A New Look.

All Done and I’m Still Not Sure

First attempt

I struggled for weeks with the cover of Twists of Time, the third book I am re-releasing. It’s done now and slated to be out mid-March, but it wasn’t a pretty process. Below is the post I wrote when I was trying to decide if I should give up and accept a cover I didn’t particularly like.

In the end, I chose to pay the designers for a redo, and I’m already so glad.

I’m a perfectionist, at least about the things that matter to me, and my books matter to me a lot. I’m also a people pleaser. I hate to be a pest. The result is I tend to say I’m okay with something, when I’m really not.

You can see how these two impulses could combine to cause a problem.

Final version after the redo

Read the full story at All Done and I’m Still Not Sure

90001 words and ready

Last week I published the new Shape of Secrets in paperback and for kindle. Below is a post I wrote right beforehand.

Now, I’m ready to do it again. Shape of Secrets is as done, double checked, and triple checked as it is going to get. I’m into formatting and prepping mode, with the hope of submitting all formats on Sunday the 17th, getting approval Monday the 18th. Read more at 90001 words and ready

It worked!

I’ve been holding my breath for months now (metaphorically) as I worked to release my first novel with a new title. I could hardly be blamed. The first title had an exponent in it. (Yes, as in the letter x raised to the power of zero.) If you’re not mathematically inclined, trust me it was clever, but no one could fault me for wanting a title that was easier to pronounce, market and search for.

Read the full story of how it went when I republished the old x0 under the new name One of One at It worked!

 

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