Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lips finished

Just wanted to let you know that the short story for Apsia, code name 'Lips', is finished, and so I will start writing the second book in the Flesh and Fell series tomorrow--code name 'Wanton.' As I work on Wanton, I'll be revising both Flood and Lips, and I hope they'll be up for sale by late January / early February.

Warm wishes for happy holidays to everyone!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

David Farland on Intellect in Fiction

I recently read David Farland's 'Daily Kick' about appealing to the intellect in fiction (I'm sorry, I received the 'Kick' as an email, and I can't find an archive with this post, so there is no link provided). In all, I have to admit, I found it to be a somewhat puzzling piece. David talks about the difference between emotional and intellectual appeal in fiction, setting up what feels to me like a straw man argument that many people believe the emotional appeal of fiction is inferior to the intellectual. However, it's never really clear to me what he means by the intellectual appeal of fiction. At times, it seems like he wants the intellectual appeal to be explicative, as a type of explanation of events; at other times, it seems like the intellectual appeal is a type of mystery that is resolved by the text (which is related to the idea of explanation, but not necessarily the same). Likewise, what he means by the emotional is not completely clear. In the context of the 'Kick,' the emotional seems to be linked to the plot, and David has talked in previous 'Kicks' about the emotional response people have while reading.

I'm certainly not writing to disagree completely with David; I respect his opinion and certainly agree with him that a large reason that many people read genre fiction is to obtain an emotional response. My only purpose here is to suggest that there is more to both the intellectual and emotional draws of fiction than plot or mystery might suggest. If we think of the text as an aesthetic object, then the possibility for plot to have a deeply intellectual function is just as likely as the emotional, and in the same way even the emotional, or the affective, can have a powerful intellectual role. I guess my resistance to this 'Daily Kick' is founded in my belief that the text is more than just the plot, and that a truly 'literate' work should operate in a multiplicity of ways. I think in part my resistance also arises from my confusion about David's terms and the weight he places on concepts I'm not sure I fully understand.

In any case, if you can track down the Daily Kick, it's worth reading because David always offers good insights and, more importantly, good tracking points for thinking about reading and writing.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Tradition and originality

I read an interesting post on Magical Words today; you can find it here. A. J. Hartley talks about the idea of originality in fiction.

While I find his argument for a view of originality as the idea of 'originality in execution' compelling in some ways, I think his argument becomes somewhat tautological. How does originality in execution escape the idea of originality? It seems like all he does is shift the location of originality from content to treatment, a move that seems, to me, intended to respond to the unfavorable review he mentions at the beginning.

It seems profitable to extend his argument against the 19th and 20th century views of genius and originality that, although increasingly being rethought by contemporary artists and thinkers, continue to dominate much of our view of the artist and the creation of art. Originality is, of course, always a part of art--what an artist contributes  to the project, what makes it different from every other piece of art (as much a part of its temporal situatedness as of its author's own range of knowledge and practice). But originality as a sign of genius, which really comes to prominence in the late 18th and 19th century with the advent of Romanticism, is neither a necessary nor an intellectually stable concept. Art always comes out of what has been produced before (a point well made by T. S. Eliot, among others, as Hartley points out), and 20th and 21st century art has been marked by an interest in self-aware engagement with that tradition. To shift the location of originality, as Hartley does, is insightful, but deals more with a symptom of the problem than with the problem itself.

Just a few thoughts--I'd be eager to hear and think about this more.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

To Say Nothing of the Dog

I just finished Connie Willis's To Say Nothing of the Dog. What a fascinating book! It won the Hugo and the Locus in 1999, and it was a very interesting read. The book is funny, light-hearted (even the threat of a total disruption of the time-space continuum doesn't seem too threatening), and incredibly smart. Willis clearly does her research, which is very enjoyable, but more than that, she has an amazing range of knowledge that is not immediately connected to the story at hand. The book is densely allusional and intertextual, and I absolutely love the way it rethinks and reworks (in a self-conscious way) the idea of the mystery genre.

In some ways, I think reading Willis's To Say Nothing of the Dog would be a good way to point out some of the tensions that genre fiction raises in comparison to what many people would call literature. Willis's book is able to be enjoyed as just a fun time-travel story, but its real richness comes from its ability to operate at multiple levels--not just as the level of the plot. Willis does this best when she's doing something funny--she has a great ability to track a joke over several different iterations (and through initially unrelated elements) to great effects. She also does this very well with the idea of genre and mystery, which ultimately plays back into the plot as well. However, the book never takes this deep, complicated approach to literature, time, causality, etc., and develops it fully. The book ends with a somewhat sentimentalized view juxtaposing and synthesizing Grand Design and chaos theory, which fits the book's trajectory very nicely.

This is a great read, and I highly recommend it for people interested in both good writing and good science fiction. Unlike some science fiction, this book is eminently accessible to the uninitiated, and I think a valuable touchstone for those interested in writing genre fiction.

Friday, December 9, 2011


A quick update: I finished plotting Wanton. I'm *really* excited about this book. I guess I say that every time, which is probably a good thing. If I weren't excited about them, I wouldn't write them. But I am eager to put into practice some of the thing I've learned lately.

Before I start writing Wanton, though, I'm going to finish the short story I have planned for the Apsia universe. I plotted it out and have written the first bit. Since it is a *short* story, I'm expecting it to be somewhere between ten and fifteen thousand words. I'll plan on having it up for sale a little bit before, or around the same time that, Flood goes up. The code name for the short story is Lips. Preview: Lips will deal with what happens in Greve Sindal at the end of Fold Thunder. Once Lips is written, I'll start writing Wanton and then I'll go back and revise both Flood and Lips.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mr. Monster and Horror

Just a quick follow-up to my last post. I'm still thinking about Mr. Monster and my reaction to it. The more I think about it, the more I wonder if my aversion to the content of Mr. Monster can be traced along generic grounds. Perhaps Mr. Monster fits very well into the horror genre? I don't read much in that genre, so it's hard for me to say. If that's the case (and it seems that horror does find its entertainment value in representing, well, the horrible) then my problem was simply one of reading in a genre I'm not comfortable with. In any case, I wanted to write this to moderate the tone of my last post, since I realize it maybe off-putting to some.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Mr. Monster

I wanted to post about the latest book I finished, Mr. Monster, because I already talked about reading I Am Not A Serial Killer and I felt I should say a little bit more. I'm a bit torn about how this post might be received, so I ask you to consider my comments carefully.

Let me just start off by saying that Mr. Monster is very well written. Tight use of language, even tighter use of plot and structure, all of which comes together very nicely at the end. In that sense I enjoyed it, and I found it to be a quick, easy read.

At the same time, it really wasn't easy for me to read at all. The content is horrifying--not just disturbing in the way that Serial Killer was. I'm a firm believer in the value of pre-critical reactions, as long as they are recognized as such, and my pre-critical reaction was: I was deeply upset by this book. Mostly, that's because this book seeks to entertain by titillating with some of the foulest behavior imaginable; Dan Wells avoids the more gratuitous forms of this style, but he still grounds the entertainment of the book in the act of staging attraction to these types of behavior (and to these actions).

I try to avoid mentioning books on here that I don't like, but I felt like I should make an exception in this case because I had already reviewed Serial Killer. Also, I do this because I recently recommended Serial Killer to my brother (before I read Mr. Monster), and I now regret that recommendation. As I've said before, both books are very well written, entertaining, and engaging, but while I found Serial Killer enjoyable, although it was difficult to relate to John as a protagonist, Mr. Monster was just too much for me. Considering Mr. Wells's comments that the last book in the trilogy is the most provocative, I won't be reading the last book in the series.

I hope this doesn't come off as any sort of 'bashing,' or even any sort of negative treatment of the book. I'm trying to offer an evaluation of both my pre-critical and critical responses in light of my response to the first book in the series. If you've read and enjoyed Serial Killer, as I did, then I think you should be aware of the shifts present in the next book in the series.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Updated book page

Just to let you know that I've added Indifferent to the Books page, where EPUB, mobi, and pdf versions are all available for free.


The Darkest Road

I recently finished the last book in Guy Gavriel Kay's Fionavar trilogy. I enjoyed the resolution to the series, although it tied up so very neatly that I found it a bit unsatisfying. I think this was my least favorite of the books; I had very little interest in the Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot story, and so I found that the resolution of that sequence did little for me. It formed a large portion of how the series ended, which I think explains my lack of excitement. I also think it's hard to follow on the brilliance of The Summer Tree, and The Wandering Fire had its own genius, so I can't fault Kay too much. And don't get me wrong, I still greatly enjoyed The Darkest Road, just not nearly as much as the other two. I look forward to reading more of Kay in the future, but for now I'm going to try a few new authors.

I've been plotting out Wanton over the last few days; my plans are to finish plotting Wanton, then take a break, plot and write the short story set in the world of Apsia, and then go back and write Wanton. Plotting Wanton has been a very different experience for me. As I've mentioned before, I love starting a new project, and in some ways I find it to be the most exciting part (well, except maybe the resolutions). But I've put a lot more time and energy into the plotting of Wanton, and I have really high hopes for how this book is going to turn out. I'm still hammering on the details of the last plot-line (hint, it involves Fadhra) to get it into shape, but I'm really excited about it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Flood finished

Just wanted to let you know that the rough draft of Flood is done. I think I already mentioned that this draft will see some heavy revision, considering a few changes that I made about halfway through, but I'm really pleased with how it turned out. As I start revising it, I'll post some of the opening sections so you can get a feel for them.

Also, I'll be releasing a short story (as yet untitled), that will also be set in the world of Apsia and deal with some of the events following Fold Thunder. The short story is meant to supplement Flood, but it will not be necessary to read the short story to read Flood. They will be separate.

So, I'll be starting the rough draft of the second book in the "Flesh and Fell" series this week. It will be code name Wanton. I'm very excited about this book; I'm going to be implementing some great things I learned while writing Flood, and I think it will give me a chance to try some even more interesting ideas. It will follow on the events of The Dew of Flesh, but it will also introduce some new characters.

Ok, that's enough for now. Starting Wanton. Revising Flood.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Wandering Fire

I recently finished The Wandering Fire and I loved it. I'm not sure that I loved it as much as I loved The Summer Tree, but I still loved it. What I found particularly strong in The Summer Tree was Paul's story--it was intensely beautiful and compelling. In The Wandering Fire, Kevin's story came as a close second, but I think for me it was slightly less satisfying than Paul's.

In any case, I'm already reading The Darkest Road and enjoying it greatly. Kay has a very particular style that I find well-suited to the stories that he tells, but what I've found more interesting is that, unlike some trilogies, this series is: a) clearly constructed as an interdependent trilogy, and b) does not have quite the same pacing across the books as most trilogies I've read. I'm going to think about it a little more, because I find Kay's approach interesting, but I'm not sure I find the series' pacing quite as effective as the books themselves. Still, a great read.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Indifferent Kindle Live

Just a follow-up to let you all know that Indifferent is live on Amazon. Things certainly move much faster now than they did back in May, when I released Fold Thunder.

Also, I wanted to let you know that the *rough* draft of Flood is almost done. It's going to need some heavy revision; about halfway through I realized I needed to change some of the characters, but I just kept writing from where I was. That means going back and reworking the first part. Still, it's on track for an early 2012 release.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Indifferent For Sale

I just wanted to let you all know that The Indifferent Children of the Earth has been uploaded to Amazon and Smashwords (and via them, to and a variety of others). It should be available in the next day or so on Amazon. As with the last two books, I am unable to set the price to 'free' on Amazon, so I have set it for its normal retail price. At Smashwords (and other sites) it will be free.

In the next day or so, I'll be putting up the files here as well, in case you'd like to get it directly from the website. I hope you'll all read this book--I loved writing it.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dew Free

Great news--I just saw that Dew of Flesh is up for free on Amazon. Go grab it if you haven't yet!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Indifferent Sneak Preview

Good news: Indifferent will be up for sale, for certain, in about two weeks. That's just in time for the holidays!

As I've done in the past, I'm going to paste below a preview of Indifferent. Unlike in the past, though, this time I will be including the whole first chapter--but not until I say a few more things.

First, the book's full title is: The Indifferent Children of the Earth. It is book one in The Sophistries of June. I know I've mentioned these things before, but I wasn't sure if I'd given the full title or the full name of the series.  It is a contemporary (urban?) fantasy; there is the potential for calling it YA, but that's not my intent. I think mainly the age of the protagonist (high school) leaves that possibility open. In other words, I didn't write it as 'YA.'

Here's a sample of the probable cover:

One more thing: you all know that I believe in giving away books for free as promotion. That's why Dew of Flesh is still free. Here's the problem (and it's the same thing that happened with Fold Thunder): I have no control over how Amazon prices my books. Or better said, I have relatively little control. I've contacted them, made efforts to get the prices on Fold Thunder and Dew switched, but I've had no luck, for a variety of reasons. Needless to say, it's frustrating. I will follow the same strategy with Indifferent, but there's no telling how it will play out on Amazon. It will, of course, be available here on the 'Books' page as soon as it's up for sale. Plus all these books are available at BN, Kobo, Smashwords, etc.

And, of course, Flood is moving along nicely. Approximately halfway done, perhaps a bit more. It's hard to tell at this point, since my endings tend to balloon somewhat. But it's around halfway.

So, without further ado, the first chapter of Indifferent (remember, still in revision):

Journal Entry, per Doctor Lumley’s request, Thursday 18 August

Dear Doctor Lumley,

You want me to tell you who I am. This is waste of time. Just because Mom and Dad think—

I have nothing to say, nothing I want to—

I was born in West Nyack, New York, to Josué and Esperanza León, 29 June, 1995. There. That’s something true. Something I can share with you, in the ‘safe space’ you’ve created for me with this moronic—

My name is Alex—

My name is Alejándro, with an accent, you stupid piece of—

You think keeping a journal will do what? Show me a part of myself? Help me be honest with myself? Help me remember what happened in the accident? Two weeks in a coma wasn’t enough to help me forget. Hell, the rest of my life in a coma wouldn’t be enough. Dreams. Aye, there’s the rub.

Honesty. That’s the problem. Right now, I’m too honest with myself. I know who I am. I know what I did. Why my parents look at me the way they do. The silences, thick and fatty as the chuck roast growing cold on the dining room table. The mania for gardening. The incessant click-click-click of that damned old-fashioned type-writer in the study, day after day without a single page to show for his efforts. Pats on the shoulder that make both of us cringe, because we both recognize the transgression in that touch. There, are you getting enough? Enough insight for one day? What does Freud say, tell me? What of Lacan? There aren’t even words for—

Fine. Twenty minutes of staring at this damn page, line after line. Here we go. Lock me up after you read this, or give me pills that will turn me into one of those drooling, tv-loving drones that wander the big-box stores. Either would be a relief.

I killed—

It was my fault that he went there, that night. My fault that I didn’t stop Christopher earlier. I was blind, you see, blind because of—

Here. Here it is. On the tip of my tongue. Unpack my heart with words, like a—

This is the part of the story you never hear. This is the story of the hero who lived when he should have died. But I’m not a hero, I’m a—

My name is Asa Alejándro León. I was the most talented quickener to be born in a hundred years, with the exception of Christopher. I crafted my first focus when I was twelve. In a single night, I rode a quickening from New York to Los Angeles, and then from Los Angeles to Hong Kong. I burned like a falling star across an ocean darker than wine. I shattered the moon with a word. I killed my best friend. I killed my brother. Or I let him die. They’re the same, really.

I am sixteen years, one month, and twenty days old.

I am broken.

I need a car. I need a girl. I need a life.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Summer Tree

I recently finished reading Guy Gavriel Kay's The Summer Tree. Ok, I know I'm decades late. But . . . wow! Why didn't anyone tell me about Kay before? The book is incredible. A lot of times I pick up a book and, although I might enjoy the first in a series, I'm not hooked enough to finish reading the rest. Let me assure you I'll be reading *all* of the Fionavar series, and I'll probably give at least one of his standalone books a shot as well.

I don't know how I missed out on Kay for so long. I just ran across his name for the first time last year, and when I started looking at his books, I saw that they were loosely based on real places. That was an instant turn-off for me. I can still remember seeing Sailing to Sarantium, remembering the Yeats poem, and immediately thinking, "I will never read that." But somehow, after seeing Kay's name once, I started seeing it pop up all over the place. So, finally, I decided to check out one of his books. I will never regret it.

What's wonderful about The Summer Tree is how incredibly beautiful it is. In particular, the story of Paul and his grief, but in general as well. Kay's economy, the precision and beauty of his language--it's unmatched by almost any author I can think of. In addition to the language, the story's thematics are fascinating. I can easily see the links between Kay and Tolkien, but whereas most authors suffer by comparison, Kay just takes on added shine. The pacing of the book is excellent, the characters engaging--even Dave, whom I thought I hated. It was just a breathtaking performance. I can't wait to read more. If you haven't read anything by Guy Gavriel Kay, I highly recommend him to you (at least The Summer Tree).

On a side note, reading Kay makes me think of Brandon Sanderson's idea of one generation of authors as the 'children' of Tolkien (I believe he names Robert Jordan as the exemplar of this period) and then the next generation (Sanderson himself) as 'grandchildren' of Tolkien. It's interesting to think about how the types of stories that are popular shift with time, and such a shift will be apparent to those who read Kay now, a good twenty years after The Summer Tree was originally published. This distinction also makes me think of those people who are eager to claim the label of postmodernism for contemporary fantasy--whether for good or for ill. Sanderson's distinction to me seems much more tenable, precisely because it locates the difference as a type of growth of the genre, or an evolutionary process. This seems reasonable, that any genre will develop and change over time. However, I remain unconvinced that most postmodern fantasy has anything to do with the intellectual and aesthetic movement(s) of postmodernism (although there might be a few exceptions). In any case, these are just a few thoughts about how Kay might seem outdated to some readers. As far as I am concerned, however, there is no way that beautiful, compelling writing can be outdated. Just a thought.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Flood update

Just wanted to let you know that Flood is moving along as planned. I'm about 1/3 of the way through the first draft--a nice step forward from October 1, when I posted that I was about 1/8 of the way done. So, progress is being made slowly and steadily--the way writing is almost always done.

The story is coming together very nicely; I believe I've mentioned before that I feel this is a very different book than Fold Thunder, but it does address some of the same storylines. I can't remember if I've mentioned whom it follows. The story picks up with Sammeen, Coi's right-hand man whom Dag tortured for information, arriving in Akiivka, a city in distant Mane. It follows Adence and Erlandr as they hunt down Corian, Brech's sister, who had been tracking them for Brech. And, of course, we see Joaquim struggling to deal with the sliver of the Rent that is trapped inside him as he looks for answers from Adence and Erlandr.

Other things are in there too, of course, including maybe a surprise or two about people from Fold Thunder who, although they aren't main characters in this book, nevertheless have an important role to play in the events of the third book.

Indifferent is still in revisions; at this point, it will probably be up for sale in mid-November, but I'm going to qualify that by saying it may be as late as the beginning of December. It's just too hard to judge right now, especially with other things in my life picking up pace to complicate my time management. I think you'll love Indifferent, though--it's very different from Fold Thunder and The Dew of Flesh, but also very compelling.

As a last item, The Dew of Flesh is available everywhere now, including a free copy on this website under the Books tab, so if you haven't had a chance to read it, I'd like to suggest that you take a look at the copy here, or a free sample elsewhere, and give it a chance.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Shades of Milk and Honey

This is the last (or penultimate, perhaps) book review for the next little while. I read Mary Robinette Kowal's Shades of Milk and Honey before many of the other books I've written about, but I've had a hard time deciding what I want to say about it. My experience of the book was mixed.

What impressed me:
Kowal's ability to imitate 18th century prose
the structure of the novel, in terms of plot and resolution and pacing
how very different this book is from many fantasy novels

I think that this would be a good book to look at if only for the drastic contrast between it and much of what is being written today. It is very slow paced, and there is relatively little action. These are by no means bad things; the story is still engaging. However, readers should be aware of this before buying the book; it's much more a romance novel than an adventure.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I Am Not A Serial Killer

So to continue the series of posts on books that I've read over the last few months: I just finished a few days ago Dan Wells's book, I Am Not A Serial Killer. What a great title!

I had mixed feelings about the book. Or rather, I loved the idea of the book, I loved the voice. Dan Wells does some amazing things with the narrative; the way he shows things through John's point of view is astounding at times. Since I have the book at hand, here is an example: "Old skin was my favorite--dry and wrinkled, with a texture like antique paper." This is on the second page of the book, buried in a description of a corpse. It's just a stellar example of 'show-don't-tell,' because this one sentence lets us know *so* much about John without actually 'telling' it.

What I didn't love: John himself. I think he's a fascinating character, but for me, he was a bit burdensome as a main character. What I mean is that there was very little relief from his sociopathy. Now, in its own way, that's a tribute to Dan Wells. He does a wonderful job of getting inside John's head, showing us what he's like. Perhaps he does it too well. I think it's clear that this experience is meant to be disturbing, and Dan Wells does it to perfection. And I think therein lies the problem. Even as I found myself rooting for John, wanting him to win against the demon, wanting him to win against his own demons, I could never fully like him. I'm still not sure why this was such a problem for me; I've read a lot of books with characters I don't particularly like. I think, though, that the problem here is that the book is so heavily character based, there is nothing to save the book from its own success.

In any case, a wonderful read for anyone doing first person, although with the caveat that it can be (well, I think it is) a disturbing reading experience. I'm undecided about reading the next two; most likely I will, if only because I'm professionally interested in how Dan Wells manages to pull this off.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

In my tradition of always being a little bit behind the curve, I recently read N. K. Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Here's what I liked about it:

--very well done narrative: Jemisin is not afraid to think that her readers are smart enough to follow a complex narrative style, instead of the much more traditional, spoon-fed approach to telling a story that dominates fantasy writing; this includes not only the narration of action and description, but also the willingness to tell the story in a non-linear fashion (at points)
--good setting: although I'm not convinced that her setting is quite as unique as reviews make it sound, I still really enjoyed it, and I thought it was interesting and well-developed
--good characters: I thought the characters were fairly well-rounded and engaging, although I had a rather difficult time with the protagonist; I liked the narrator-protagonist *so much more* than the protagonist I had to read about most of the time

Again, this is a great place to look if you want to see an author treating her readers as intelligent human beings (Steven Erikson is another example of this, or George R. R. Martin). While I enjoyed the book quite a bit, I could have done with a bit less on the sexuality of the gods (I think I was supposed to feel shocked and/or titillated that the gods were bisexual, but it just felt like I was being forced to feel that way, and I didn't appreciate it--frankly, I just didn't care), and as I said, I had a hard time with a dominant version of the protagonist. Still, definitely worth a read for seeing how Jemisin tells a smart, enjoyable story. I'm glad I read this book.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Update + The Lies of Locke Lamora

I believe I mentioned earlier that I recently finished reading The Lies of Locke Lamora. It was an interesting book; I didn't care for the swearing, although it seemed appropriate for the characters. That's really my only complaint, though. The book itself is wonderful. The characters are engaging and likeable, the plot is entertaining and well-paced, and the voice is wonderful. I loved the narration of this book--it's a wonderful balance of dry humor and beautiful writing, and it certainly gave me some new goals for my own work. I highly recommend this book (I know, it's been out for years), but remember: if you are offended by swearing, this is not the book for you. People who follow this blog know that I'm a pretty big fan of Brandon Sanderson's work, and I think Scott Lynch's writing is substantially different from Sanderson's. For those interested in thinking about how they write, I think reading a Sanderson book next to Scott Lynch's work might be very illuminating.

Things are moving along smoothly. Flood is on track; at this point, it's perhaps 1/8 drafted. Maybe a bit more. It's always hard to say how long a book will be from an outline, but this feels like it will be about the length of Fold Thunder or The Dew of Flesh, and if that's the case, then I'm about 1/8 of the way through it. This book is taking on a very different tone from Fold Thunder or The Dew of Flesh. It continues to examine a lot of the themes present in Fold Thunder, but from new, and I hope profitable, directions. Structurally, it's substantially different from the other books as well, and it's turning out to be very effective (at least, up to this point).

Indifferent is still moving along through revision; I'd like to predict end of November for this book, but it may be as late as early December. It's hard to say right now. Regardless, it will be up by the end of the year.

And I think that's all for now.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Small updates

Just a note on a few updates to the site. I've changed the Books page: there are now complete downloads of both Fold Thunder and The Dew of Flesh. Both books are offered in MOBI, EPUB, and PDF. I have set the prices back to normal on Amazon and Smashwords, so it's only a matter of time before Fold Thunder goes back to full price. You'll still be able to get both books for free here, if you like. I believe that people should have a chance to see my work and 'try out' each series, and so the first book of each series will be available for free here.

Also, I believe I mentioned this last time, but Indifferent is completely drafted. It's going through the revision process and will definitely be up for sale before the end of the year. It's the first book in the third series I'm working on (don't worry, I'm not adding any more series until these three are finished) called The Sophistries of June.

I've finished plotting Flood and I'm writing away on it. It's the second book in the Rim and the Shore series, following Fold Thunder. It's been going great; several characters from Fold Thunder appear in the sequel, which follows the story of the rent and the political machinations throughout the Amala's Heart area. In addition to the old characters, though, several new ones form a central part of these stories. We've met some of them before, while others are new to this story. The idea behind this book is that, while it continues the story of the rent and the world of Apsia, it is also a standalone story. In other words, you shouldn't have to read Fold Thunder to enjoy Flood.

And that's enough to keep me busy for a while!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Dew of Flesh up for sale

Just a quick announcement to let you know that The Dew of Flesh is now available for sale on Smashwords and Amazon; it should be available on as well, as soon as it goes through the Smashwords distribution channel. So far, this round of publishing has been much smoother than the first time, and much faster too.

In the next few days, I'll be updating the website a little bit (mainly the books page) and I hope to give a few comments about Shades of Milk and Honey and The Lies of Locke Lamora (the books I've most recently read).

The first draft of Indifferent is finished, and so that will be going through editing and review for the next while. In the mean time, I've been outlining Flood, the sequel to Fold Thunder, and I will be writing that next.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Ok, I'm back, and here's a quick status report:

Well, to be honest, not nearly as much writing happened as I had hoped. I only ended up losing two weeks of time, but that's still a good chunk. The problem is that the traveling conditions made it almost impossible for me to get any writing done during those two weeks. However, I did get a lot of Flood plotted out, which was good, and I'm back to working on the last bit of Indifferent. I've heard back from almost all my readers on Dew, so I'll be working through those comments, and Dew should be up for sale in a few weeks.

Once Dew goes up for sale, I'll be putting Fold Thunder back at full price. As with Fold Thunder, I plan on giving away Dew for free, so that's something you can look forward to. If you haven't grabbed Fold Thunder, I suggest getting it now. Flood, the sequel to Fold Thunder, is up next in the writing queue (after Indifferent). I'm hoping that means it will be done by Christmas, but I'm not sure if that's feasible.

So, short-term, look for Dew in the next few weeks. That's book one of a new series. Mid-term, look for Indifferent, also first book in a new series. Then around the end of the year, look for Flood, book two of The Rim and the Shore (of which Fold Thunder is the first book).

In addition to plotting Flood, I got some really good brainstorming work done on new stories and magic systems. Don't worry, though--I've got my hands full juggling these three series, so I won't be starting any new projects until I've completed the three series I've got going right now. Still, it's fun to play around with new ideas!

As a final item, here's a test cover for Dew (full name, The Dew of Flesh, book one of the series Flesh and Fell).

Glad to be back! Hope all is well with you!

Monday, August 1, 2011

All Quiet on the Blog Front

I just wanted to let you all know that, most likely, there will not be any updates to the blog in August. I will be traveling for almost the entire month, and I will have limited internet access. Rest assured that I will still be working on Indifferent and Dew, and that while the travel will interrupt my time on the blog, it will not interrupt my writing (too much). Emails, for the same reason, will also likely go unanswered.

Enjoy the month! I'll be back in September, and a few weeks later you should see Dew go live for sale.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Dew Update

Just an update for those of you keeping track: comments and feedback from my readers on Dew are starting to come in, so I'll be working through those, making changes, etc. That means that I'll have to work on the stuff from my readers first, and when I've gone through all of that, and made the necessary changes, I'll make my final pass of Dew and put it up for sale. At this point, it looks like the most feasible date is mid-September.

Indifferent is moving along nicely; I'm a bit past the halfway point on the rough draft. It's a shorter book than either Dew or Fold Thunder (that is, it will be shorter unless something changes drastically), but it's still longer than your standard novel. That will be coming later this year, depending on how revisions go.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Authorial Image (or Persona)

I read a post on Magical Words the other day that I found somewhat bothersome; you can read it here if you like. And I suppose I should preface my reaction by saying, all of this is coming from me as a long time fan and reader of fantasy and science fiction. It's not coming from me as a writer. I'd love to hear from people about their own reactions to this post, whether as a writer or a reader.

The post talks about the need for an author to have a sort of visual, in-person brand. In particular, this seems to do with clothing, although other elements of appearance are also important. Ms. Price offers the example of her own brand as having to do with corsets and boots. Her argument is that by creating this sort of visual persona, the author can connect with readers, and that readers will also gain some sort of benefit from this. I'm not entirely clear on what this benefit is--apparently a sense of consistency is the main result, or perhaps the ability to identify with a specific author.

Regardless, I have to say I find this idea to be kind of silly. And that's just me speaking as a reader. I've never met most of the authors whose work I love to read. Frankly, I'm not particularly interested in meeting some of them. And the ones I *have* met have never had a consistent style, let alone anything approaching what most people would call 'style' in the first place.

And that's not a bad thing; I love those authors just as much as if I'd never met them. This type of 'branding,' of wearing a specific type of clothing--black leather, nose rings, boots, whatever the case may be--is fine if you enjoy that, but it should be recognized for exactly what it is: a gimmick. Most readers, and I'm speaking here as a reader, are not going to go to conventions, they're not going to dress up, they're not going to care what an author wears or looks like. The closest thing that will come to affecting them is if the author is a jerk or not, since this can come across pretty clearly in blog posts, interviews, etc. So while I think Ms. Price is right with regard, perhaps, to a very specific demographic of the reading audience, I think that 'visual branding' is ultimately a trivial part of being an author, and it is *completely* disconnected from the actual act of writing.

Now, I'm not trying to make Ms. Price sound like she was claiming anything different; I think her post is fairly straightforward about what she sees as the benefits of 'visual branding' and she is clear that they are separate from writing. But I wanted to take a moment to comment on this because, reacting as a reader, I find the idea so foreign; perhaps this is because I'm not really a convention-goer myself. I'd be interested to hear from people who had different reactions, or who find the idea of 'visual branding' to be particularly helpful.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Just a quick post with updates. Indifferent is moving along nicely; I'd estimate that it's about a third of the way drafted, which means I'm right on track. It's been a delight to write, and I'm taking stuff I've learned from the other books and trying to work them into the way I pace and plot this one. Writing in first person has been challenging at times, but enjoyable. Everything is going well on that front.

Dew is out of my hands, at least for the time being. I've sent it out to readers; once I hear back from them, I'll be going back through, looking at their comments, making changes where appropriate. And once that's finished, I'll do a few final passes before I put it up for sale.

I mentioned that I've been outlining/brain-storming the sequel to Fold Thunder. Flood, as it's being called for now, is really still in the most preliminary of stages, but I'm excited about the direction it's going to take. It will pick up on the events of Fold Thunder, and it will carry that storyline forward, but it is also intended to be a standalone work, so if you haven't read Fold Thunder, you will be able to enjoy Flood just fine.

That's all for now--just a status report, really.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

New Media

David Farland sent out his Daily Kick today with an interesting topic; you can find the article here if you'd like to read it first. In essence, he argues that with the advent of e-readers, people will move into a new medium for story-telling, one that involves audio and visual (specifically illustration and video) components as part of the reading experience, and, from what I can understand, interwoven with the text itself.

It's a fascinating idea, and one that I think will certainly be developed and explored by others in the coming decades. Certainly there's something very attractive about a synthesis of media; it's ripe with possibilities for new ways not only to entertain, but to produce great art. In some ways, though, it makes me think about the sort of blossoming of hypertextual storytelling when computers (and more specifically) the internet became more common. People theorized that this type of storytelling, where the ability to follow hyperlinks would move the reader along ever-changing webs, would offer an alternative to traditional narrative models.

There's no doubt that it did, and in its own way, hypertextual storytelling is an incredible art form. But while new media will continue to arise, I question the logic that says that they will come to replace standard textual narrative. Multimedia text has been available since the written word; verse, in particular, has always had a strong correlation with song, to the point that at various times in history, poetry was not considered complete until it was linked to music.

Obviously what we're seeing today is new and different, and I hope it brings exciting new forms of storytelling. But I think there are also good reasons that the prose narrative, available to the consumer in the discrete object known as the book, has proliferated with great success. The problem with incorporating different media is that they are, precisely, different. While you can listen to music and read at the same time, maybe even read and watch TV at the same time, you can never do both as effectively at the same time as you can do one. I know, people will argue with me about this, but it's just not possible. The amount of attention required to pay serious attention to language means you have that much less attention for music, and while we can shift back and forth, all that really means is that we're doing one thing, and then another.

Of course I'm not a cognitive specialist, so perhaps there are new studies that disprove this, but I think my point remains. A multimedia story experience could be a wonderful innovation, but I can't see how it will supplant prose narrative. That would be like saying these new multimedia books are going to supplant movies. Or that they're going to supplant music. A new medium can come into existence, but there's no reason it can, or would, mean the death of an old one.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Character Goals and Motivations

I've been thinking a lot about character goals and motivations recently. Not only was I working out a particularly difficult piece of Indifferent, having to do with some back story that I hadn't fully fleshed out, but I've been thinking ahead and loosely plotting the next book I'll be working on, code-name Flood (the sequel to Fold Thunder). In both the back story of Indifferent, and in the plotting of Flood, I came up against figurative brick walls: I couldn't figure out what two characters were doing.

In Indifferent, the character who was giving me trouble does not actually appear in the book, even though he's mentioned very frequently. In fact, he has a more important role than some of the people that the MC actually interacts with regularly. And he needed to have done something in the past--something that had put the world in jeopardy at one point. Now, I won't go into details about what exactly he did, since that's an important part of the story that you'll get to read, but I'll talk a little bit about how I worked through this problem.

I started off by thinking about who this character was: what was he like as a person; what was his family like; what had been formative events in his life. Some of this I'd already developed, some of it was stuff I needed to finish thinking through. Once I had that done, I went back, working through the events in his life that had led up to his final bad decision. I could see it all, picture it all. But I couldn't figure out *what* that last, bad decision had been.

Until I asked myself: what would this person want? And then I had the answer. After Indifferent comes out, I'll be happy to talk a little bit more about this and explain the rest of the process.

A similar story goes for Flood. A sneak preview: one of the MC for Flood is going to be Sammeen, who plays a small but important role in Fold Thunder. Now, I had developed quite a bit of backstory for Sammeen while writing Fold Thunder precisely because of how interesting he is. And when it came to plotting Flood, I knew what I wanted Sammeen to *do.* What I didn't know is why he would do it, or what else needed to happen.

And so I did the same thing that I did with indifferent. I went back and worked through everything I knew about Sammeen, and I kept asking myself, 'What kind of person is he? How have these events shaped him? What have they made him become, and what was he before?' And as I started working through these questions, I suddenly knew exactly what Sammeen needed to do, and why he would do it, and where it would lead him.

The point in sharing this is that, as a lot of good writers have said before, creativity is as much about asking questions and working through ideas as it is anything else. For me, characters are the heart of the story, and so I'm particularly invested in thinking about how they change, and why they change. And so I thought I'd give a slightly more descriptive account of how I worked through some of this stuff.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pat Rothfuss and Narrative

So I've been catching up on the podcast Adventures in Sci-fi Publishing; if you're interested in sci-fi or fantasy, whether as a writer or a reader, I think it's worth listening to. One that I listened to recently was Moses Siregar's interview with Pat Rothfuss; it's really fascinating, in particular because it addresses some of the issues that I had raised on this blog while reading Wise Man's Fear. If you're interested, here's the link.

Rothfuss's idea seems to be something along these lines: Kingkiller Chronicles is more of a biography, or auto-biography, than it is a traditional 'story,' and therefore it doesn't have the same arc of character and plot progression, nor does it have a teleology per se. I think this is a fascinating idea, but I think the problem with it is that, to insist that biographies and autobiographies don't have their own narrative thrust is to take, I believe, a too simplistic approach to the demands of life-writing. More than many authors, I believe, biographers and autobiographers feel the need to tell the 'story' of an individual, and the genre and form of life-writing has come to reflect that in many ways.

So I think it's fascinating that Rothfuss addressed this issue, and I think his idea is really interesting, even if I don't necessarily buy into the distinction that he's making. Regardless, Kingkiller Chronicles is a fascinating series, beautifully written, and well worth reading, if only to see how he concludes it. A part of me wonders if the third volume will be as anti-climactic as the second; it seems like his conception of the trilogy actually calls for such an ending, but I wonder how it will go over, or if Rothfuss is actually committed to what he has described. Or I may have misunderstood his project, and it may be completely different from what I've described.

In any case, a really interesting interview, and one that addresses, in part, some of the issues I've been thinking about.

Other news: Dew revision is moving along nicely, although I've found a few things to go back and fix that I hadn't expected. Nothing major, but small points for the plot arcs. Indifferent is progressing as well, and that is still a delight to write.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Moses Siregar's Black God's War

For those of you who did not see the announcement in other places, I just thought I'd let you know that Moses Siregar announced the release date for his book, The Black God's War, for August 1. You can find more details here. The book has a beautiful cover, and as I've mentioned before, I enjoyed the novella that Moses released as a sort of sneak-preview. If you didn't grab the novella while it was free, you might still find it on Amazon. If it's not there, you should read the sample of Moses's book and see for yourself if you like it.

Other than that, I don't have much to say except that Indifferent is moving along nicely, and revisions on Dew continue to be about what I expected. I'll keep you posted as things develop.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Indifferent, Dew revision

Things are going well with Indifferent; slow, steady progress. It's a very different story arc, for a lot of reasons: urban fantasy, a single, first-person POV, and the nature of the story being told. I'm really enjoying it, as I've mentioned before, but it's also a lot of work to figure out how I want this to take shape, how the pacing is working. The pacing is probably the most difficult piece to judge because narrative and action can slide in a first person POV, I think. Still, it's going well.

The revision of Dew is going great; I'm about halfway through the manuscript. There weren't nearly as many big changes to Abass's POV as I remember, although in part that's because I'd already gone back and done some. I'm working my way through Ilahe right now, and then I'll have Siniq-elb. After this, I'll send it out to my readers, get their feedback, and then I'll do a few more fine-tuning passes. But so far, the revision process has gone very smoothly, and I look forward to getting feedback from other people on the project.

Other than that, not much has happened, aside from my enrolling myself on Goodreads (mostly so that I could get Fold Thunder off of the other Gregory Ashe's page--who would have thought there were two of us?). Find me over there, if you'd like, but so far I haven't added anything but a link to the blog.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Indifferent and Voice

So, as I briefly mentioned in a previous post, work on Indifferent is going great. It really is! I think part of it is that it's a new project, and there's always something really exciting about starting something (I've talked a little about this before). Part of it, though, is I'm just thrilled with the way the voice has come out for the MC of Indifferent. I imagine that most people would classify the genre of Indifferent as YA, and since that seems to cover such a wide range of types of stories, that's fine with me. I'm just thinking of it as a normal story, though, with a teenage protagonist. Part of what's fun about that is being able to write in a version of this world--using tropes and elements that are shared across a lot of people. It's a very different experience from writing in a created world, and while I love world-building and creating new places and people and cultures, there's something I really enjoy about writing in ours as well (so it turns out!).

This is related to the character's voice, of course--a lot of what defines him is his ability to see things that are common to all of us, but experience them in a different way. In part, this is due to some tragic circumstances in his life; in part, because of his magic; and in part, just because of who he is. Regardless, it's great fun, and I think makes for a very engaging story.

Revisions on Dew are underway; I'm perhaps a quarter of the way through the first pass. Right now, it's mostly major things, as I've said before, but if I catch anything small I go ahead and fix that too. Later passes will be for grammer, spelling, continuity, etc.

And of course, Fold Thunder is still free on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, et al., so if you haven't had a chance to pick it up, do so now! I don't know how long Amazon will leave it there for free--the most frustrating thing about Amazon is their lack of transparency. Still, it's a great help to have the book there for free. Over eight thousand people have downloaded it in the last few days, and here's hoping that more will continue to download and, more importantly, to read it.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fold Thunder on Amazon Free List

Great news! I saw today that Fold Thunder has finally made it onto the Amazon free list. I'm thrilled about that, of course! My goal from the start was to price it free on Amazon, since I believe that the best promotion is word of mouth, and the best way to get word of mouth is to get readers. And free should (I hope!) mean more readers. So thank you to all of those (or, better said at the moment, to both of you) who have left reviews--I'm grateful for your feedback and that you took the time to leave your thoughts for other readers.

For those wondering, I'm not sure how it got onto the free list. It's always been free on Smashwords, B&N, Kobo, etc., but Amazon refused to lower their price to match. In fact, I'd reported the lower price a couple of times on the Amazon product page, but to no result. Then today, I noticed a lot of readers of the blog coming from Amazon sources, and so I thought I'd see what had changed. And there it was. Right now at #3 on the free list for fantasy, and #21 (last I checked) on all free. Incredible. That's really wonderful.

So, please spread the word. Dew will be released in a couple of months, so there's plenty of time to enjoy Fold Thunder before then.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Abass preview and Indifferent

So, just a quick note on Indifferent (and I'll write more about this next post)--I wrote the first part of it today. Let me just tell you, I'm *thrilled* with the voice. The character is one I've been running through my head for a while, and I can't tell you how happy I am with the voice and with the 1st person POV. It was definitely much slower going today, and it's stretching me to write this way, but I'm loving it.

Also, as I've been revising Dew, I realized you still haven't seen a preview of Abass's POV. So here's his first paragraph, in rough draft form (he is the other POV that I haven't spoke about much):

Blood broke the sunlight, a spray that cast a thousand fluttering shadows across the dirt road. The woman screamed, dark hair falling in front of her flushed face. Abass could barely hear her over the roar of the Harvest. He pressed against the splintered planks of the building behind him as men, women, children pressed in closer to see. The first stirrings of harvest-madness washed over him, a surge of blood-lust, but his stomach grumbled louder. He forced the harvest passion down and focused on the crowd.

Anyway, I'll talk more about Indifferent next time, but it's going great.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

World-building and Plotting Indifferent

So I've been working on Indifferent the last couple days, letting Dew cool and settle before I go back and start prodding it into shape. I'd forgotten how much I *love* world-building. This is the first time I've done an urban fantasy, and so it's a very different process--I find myself looking at all sorts of information I'd never thought I'd need, and I also find myself enjoying it. This type of writing is creative in a different way, with different limits--this is a world that's very similar to our own (one of the main exceptions being magic) and so I'm working with a new set of constraints. It's refreshing and exhilarating all at once! In fact, although the plot is roughly sketched out, I still have a *lot* of world-building to do--and a lot more research to do before I can finish! Anyway, it's a real pleasure--it's been about six months, maybe more, since I did all of this work for Dew, and so it's a nice change of pace to do some creative work that isn't necessarily part of the narrative.

I recently listened to the Writing Excuses podcasts on urban fantasy and found myself a bit puzzled; the one on brainstorming urban fantasy was kind of painful at times, although I know in part that is due to the fact that most ideas sound trite when they're boiled down. Both podcasts were helpful, though, to the extent that they marked out some of the conventions and cliches of urban fantasy; I was glad to find that Indifferent doesn't fit into any of the cliches, and it actually seems to avoid most of the common tropes. I wonder if it will play out that way when it's written; as I've mentioned before, I think there are reasons that tropes can be helpful at times, so I'm not averse to having them in Indifferent, but I'm interested to see how it shapes up when I start the writing.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Dew done (well, the rough draft)

The title pretty much says it all: Dew is done! Wow, so exciting. The ending got a little more complicated than I had expected, and while I like how it concludes now, I feel like I may end up working on it a little more. Still, I pushed through and wrote quite a bit more than my normal quota today so I could finish it. Now we start the lengthy review process.

Review for me has a couple different phases. The most important is going through, reworking story-lines, making sure all the pieces fit together. In some ways, this is the most arduous for me, but also the most entertaining, because it is still a very creative process. After this, it becomes much more focused on the language of the story--not only looking for errors, but also general trimming, rephrasing. So I'll set to work on that here on Monday, along with getting the first bit of writing done for Indifferent. That's right, gotta keep writing in addition to the revising. No rest for the wicked.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Dew almost done, preview

Well, just so you know, the rough draft of Dew is almost done. I'm wrapping up Siniq-elb's POV, which (I hope) will be finished tomorrow. Then it's back to the drawing board with revising, editing, etc. All the good stuff. Still, it's so exciting to have Dew almost finished. I've been writing Dew for about six months now, which is about how long Fold Thunder took, but Dew is quite a bit longer, and I have been juggling other life things while working on it. My hope is to have Dew up and ready to go by the end of July, but we'll see how things work out.

The next project I'm moving onto will be code name Indifferent (not really a code at all, just an abbreviation of a prospective title). It's a very different story for me. First person, urban fantasy. I'm excited to try some different narrative techniques and to break out of what I'm familiar with. I'll keep you posted, of course.

As a teaser, here's a preview of Siniq-elb's POV, the first paragraph that he gets:

A noise broke the still, hot air of the forest. Siniq-elb tightened his grip on the longsword, sweat trickling between his hands, and waited. It came again. Footsteps. No animal had such an even, heavy trod. He glanced to his left. Natam, barely visible through the thick grasses that grew here, flashed a white-toothed smile and nodded. He had heard it too. A flash of silver as Natam shifted and the thick chain he had taken to wearing peeked out from under his leather armor. Siniq-elb frowned; Natam had come into money lately, and he had wasted no time in displaying it. Siniq-elb would have to speak to the man. Vanity would get the squad killed.

That's all for now, but I'll keep you posted on how things develop.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Last of the Mohicans and Prose

So, over the weekend, I watched Last of the Mohicans (for perhaps the twelfth time in my life). As you can probably guess, I love that movie. I love pretty much everything about it, and the last 20 minutes are stunning in my opinion. As I was watching it this weekend, though, I started thinking about how incredibly effective those last 20 minutes are, and how effective they are without hardly any dialogue (well, I'm mostly thinking about everything after the Huron village, it might be less than 20 minutes). In any case, the movie tells the story *so well* without almost any dialogue--just music and action. And it's beautiful and tight and just wonderful.

Then, I read this post at The Scribblers Cove on phrases not to use in writing. I'm torn on this idea; while I'm all about moving past worn-out language, cliches, etc., I'm also resistant to the idea that just because an agent or an editor is sick of something, that the entire reading community shares those prejudices (formed, at least in part, by over-exposure to bad writing that much of the reading public won't see). So, while I think it's helpful to have in mind during the writing process that some phrases are cliche and that writing can be more effective with a little thought and careful use of language, I also think that sometimes those cliched phrases are helpful precisely because they can stand in for emotions that readers will be familiar with, when those moments of the story do not need to be hammered on by bending language. In other words, cliches can be helpful at times, and not simply in some sort of boring, hipster, postmodern, ironic reappropriation. My thought: do my best to write powerful, poetic prose, but also be aware that conventional language can be helpful at times.

How does this connect to Last of the Mohicans? While beautiful prose and cliched description can both be effective, sometimes, less is more. Rothfuss does this particularly well; there's rarely any doubt about how people are feeling, but there are very few explicit mentions of those feelings. Sanderson is much more explicit, but not heavy-handed, and (to respond to the Scribblers post) he *does* use cliches and the dreaded adverbs to convey this information. Being a good writer is all about knowing what is effective, and that's more a matter of experience and practice than it is of 'rules.'

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Dew Update and Warbreaker

Well, Dew is moving along nicely; Siniq-elb's POV is reaching the last turning point for him (as a character), and from this point on it's going to be moving towards the climax and resolution. It's also getting to the point where the POVs start to cross over, so I'm going to enjoy writing parts of the story that the other characters have had glimpses of, but haven't seen entirely. It's a nice way to wrap up the book (well, before revising).

In a fit of nostalgia (and also, because it's available for free) I've been reading Brandon Sanderson's Warbreaker. Talk about shock after Rothfuss, if only because of how different they are. I've mentioned before, I think, how much I like Brandon's work, and I'm a bit biased because I've taken his creative writing class, but man--never have the differences been so apparent to me. Plotting, prose, narrative technique. It's kind of incredible. Brandon's style is much more familiar to me, his prose much more transparent (and, one might say, 'prosaic'), but he works so efficiently. Everything is done very neatly. And I'm really intrigued by how much narrative he uses; when I move on to Way of Kings again, I'll have to compare and see if he still writes the same now.

In any case, Warbreaker is a great read, and if you haven't had a chance to do so, you should read it now. Like (almost) all of Brandon's books, it is a great example for writing precisely because what he does is both transparent and effective.

Monday, June 13, 2011

End of Wise Man's Fear

Dew continues along; I want to say I'm about half way through Siniq-elb's POV, but the endings always take a bit longer than I expect, so I may have just over half left. Still, it's about to hit the really exciting stuff, so I'm thrilled about that.

I finished Wise Man's Fear over the weekend; I'm torn. As I've said before, I *love* Rothfuss's prose. It's beautiful. I also liked the book overall, although with many reservations. Here are the main ones:

I realized that I'm bored with Kvothe. The interlude Kvothe is fascinating, precisely because of his weakness. The first book (Name of the Wind), growing-up-Kvothe, was ok, but slightly boring, because he was good at almost everything. The main narrative's Kvothe in WMF is *boring.* He excels at everything; even his weaknesses, like speaking his mind or having a temper, are assets in the end. This extends to the Edema Ruh; they're good at everything, universally kind and decent, and (of course) oppressed. Not interesting to me.

Also, the story arc of the book was less than satisfying; I reached the end and realized nothing had happened. Oh sure, Kvothe had done all sorts of exciting things, and his financial problems were solved--but really? 900 pages for that? He wasn't a different person, at least, not by much, and (as usual) he had excelled at everything he did. So what changed? He no longer had to worry about tuition. I know that's a bit reductive, but I still felt the story arc left something to be desired. It's sort of the opposite end of the spectrum from Brandon Sanderson (with his over-the-top endings that I love) or Steven Erikson (same) or even George R. R. Martin. Even less 'epic' tales have much more satisfying development. In any case, it seemed to suffer from 'middle book' syndrome.

Those quibbles aside, it's a fantastic book, and I really enjoyed reading it. I'm interested in the way Rothfuss made the narrative work; as I said, it doesn't really have an arc. Instead, it's a meandering progression through a little less than a year of Kvothe's life. In that sense, it's highly episodic, with a few recurring themes (poverty and Denna). I'm not sure if I liked it, or how effective it is, but I find it really interesting. Along with thinking about Rothfuss's prose and his dialogue, I'm going to be puzzling over the structure for a while as well.

I think now I'll go back and read 'Way of Kings' and maybe 'Warbreaker' by Brandon Sanderson to get a better feel for his style; I have different issues with his writing, but his structuring is very effective, and I'd like to take a look at it again.

This is a busy week for me, so you may not hear back from me for a few days, although I'll try my best.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

World-building issues in Wise Man's Fear

So, as I've mentioned, I'm reading The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss, and I'm really enjoying it. I've been thinking a lot about how he writes and I find it *fascinating.* The first person narrative, with a single POV (excepting the interludes), is a totally different structure from what I usually write, but it's one that I'm looking forward to using in my next project (after Dew). In particular, I'm interested in how this extended first person narrative requires a different structure for the story, and in how Rothfuss interweaves the plot threads so well.

I've had a few issues with the world-building, though. I mentioned before the use of God and Lord and the attempt to cover up the slippage between his use of the words and Real World usage. I find this frustrating precisely because, for me, it undoes a lot of what world-building is supposed to do (plant me in another place). This speaks to a larger issue in Rothfuss's world-building, namely the way that a lot of the world-building actually seems to model itself on Real World countries, religions, etc. Up to a point this is fine, but I find it to be less than effective at times because it makes it hard to have the world seem truly unique. The University, for example, is pretty compelling precisely because it reveals so much about the world--sygaldry, sympathy, naming--in a fairly natural setting. However, when we find out that (not really a spoiler, but maybe, although this is all told in back-story) Kvothe was saved in the trial partially by knowing the 'hempen verses,' it seems really ineffective because it's a wholesale piece of medieval Real World history (grounded in a complex religious and political scene that is unique to that period) transplanted into a supposedly different world.

While this might be a problem only for those familiar with medieval history, Rothfuss does something even worse: he pokes at the very underpinnings of world-building, language. I can't tell if he does so because he thinks it's funny, or if he really thinks it's clever, but either way it's like pressing on a bruise. When he claims that the word 'vintage' for example comes from 'Vintas,' he's making, albeit indirectly, a claim about the way language evolved in this world. Same with the word 'Lackey' from 'Lackless.' While it's pseudo-clever to come up with this, it's hugely problematic for world-building because it puts pressure on the most delicate part of the negotiation between the reader and the world of the story: the language itself. If vintage comes from Vintas, why do I understand the word vintage without having ever heard of Vintas before? More importantly, how do I reconcile the 'real' etymology of the word with the new one? Are all vintners from Vintas? Is the word wine from Vintas? Is the word vine rooted in Vintas? Rothfuss's world-building asks the reader to confront language in order to navigate the new world, and this, at least in my opinion, is the ultimate way to pull a reader out of the text.

In any case, these are relatively minor blemishes in an otherwise great book, but I was just so frustrated by seeing them. I love the story of Kvothe, but I wish the world-building had been carried out a bit differently.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Description and Travel

Sorry for the delay in posts; I'm going to be traveling for the next few months, and so my opportunities to post will, of necessity, be fewer, although the writing continues at the same pace as always. Dew is moving along nicely; Siniq-elb has made some great progress, I think I'm about a third of the way through his arc. As I predicted, I'm a lot more in the 'zone' with this section. It's just a struggle to get all the parts moving at the beginning.

I mentioned last time that I was going to write a bit about description. My thoughts are motivated by a series of posts on Magical Words; the latest dealing with description is part of a series by Faith Hunter. Her ideas are all very solid, mostly about the use of concrete details that appeal to a variety of senses. While her post was on taste and texture, which was fascinating, I thought I'd just offer a couple comments about description in general.

My point of departure: Wise Man's Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss. It's great, as I mentioned last time. I've been reading it with close attention to how he describes dialogue and character interaction, and what I've found has been fascinating. For the most part, Rothfuss simply doesn't describe it. The tags are minimal. A few adverbs. Rarely, a beautiful passage describing the character's interior state.

Of course, he's doing 1st person, which is a different narrative structure, and my focus in limited 3rd person delves a lot more deeply into the character's experience of the world in the moment. Still, I'm intrigued by Rothfuss's success with much more minimalist dialogue framing, and it's something I'm going to be looking at closely in revision of Dew. Where are my insights helpful, and where can the dialogue stand on its own, without anything else.

As a final item, I'll include a piece of 'description' that does not include dialogue, since I find those moments are often much more difficult for me. From Siniq-elb's POV:

Sweat rolled down his muscled torso in tiny rivers by the time he reached the narrowing band of shadow at the edge of the trees. Thick air pressed against him like a second skin; this was the worst type of day in the ever-summer weather of the Paths. Rain would come and break the heat, bringing more perfect days, but it might be days or weeks before it happened. Even under the trees the air was hot and heavy, although the sun no longer threatened to roast him in his brown tunic.

Anyway, more thoughts on WMF as I keep reading, but I'm consistently interested by Rothfuss's prose, even when I don't always like it (for example, his decision to use 'God' and 'Lord' as oaths, even though they don't seem to fit the world he's set up).

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Goodbye, Kindle Boards (kind of)

Well, I finished the first big turning point for Siniq-elb, and I'm really happy with how it went. There's probably still a bit of fine tuning to go back and do, but I'm pleased with how things turned out. The next part is where he starts really getting into action, there are some surprises he doesn't see coming, and best of all, he gets to help some people! It's going to be great.

The title of my post refers to my recent decision (last night, and confirmed after thinking about it again today) to stop involving myself on Kindle Boards, with the exception of announcing new books, sales, etc. I never had a very strong presence, but I have tried to be active in that community since releasing Fold Thunder. While I've met some great, generous people through the site, the number of abrasive, unpleasant personalities is too high to make Kindle Boards worth my time. I deal with enough disagreeable personalities in my life; I don't need to spend my free time putting myself in a position to encounter more. This should in no way be a condemnation of all the people on Kindle Boards; as I said, there are some truly lovely people there. However, in addition to the poor manners of so many of the forum posters, I have found that a great deal of the conversations revolve around the twin cults of (self)promotion and sales, and I simply have no interest in talking about those things. In any case, as I said, I'll still be putting up announcements there, but I think I'll stop spending my time in a place that leaves me in a bad mood.

For next time, I'd like to talk about a recent series of posts on Magical Words (you probably saw that coming) about writing descriptions. Good stuff.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Wise Man's Fear

Just started the Wise Man's Fear. I know, I'm behind the times. I've only made it a few chapters in, but as you know, I've been thinking a lot about beginnings right now, and I found the way Rothfuss begins this book (similar to the way he starts Name of the Wind) really fascinating. The opening scenes are beautiful narration and dialogue; I'm fairly sure the frame story is omniscient, or if not omniscient, then a very light third person limited, although I did not spend a lot of time examining it (too busy enjoying the story this round through).

Where Rothfuss excels, and I remember the same was true in the first book, are his figurative language and his dialogue. The dialogue shines. And he has incredibly beautiful comparisons, similes, metaphors, figurative descriptions. All very, very well done. In fact, very similar to the kind of writing I would like to be able to do, although I find myself leaning more towards a deep third person limited rather than the somewhat lighter (in terms of narration) first person that he does. Still, he does first person well.

In any case, it is interesting to see him setting up problems for Kvothe to solve, along with additional story lines that, right now, don't have quite as obvious a terminus. I like that strategy, and it's a writing technique I want to incorporate. It will be really fun to see how the story unfolds; I am not a crazy Rothfuss fan (I'm thinking of all the hype for Name of the Wind), but I have to admit he's a master of the craft. If only there weren't such a long wait between books!

Dew continues, of course. Just wrote a painful but necessary scene that finished some of the set up; the next one (technically the one I'm in the middle of) is a big turning point for Siniq-elb, and it makes me happy just thinking about it. This is where the story is really going to get rolling!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

iMac Problems

Well, another chunk of Dew written. I'm really starting to get into Siniq-elb's world, and it's been a lot of fun, especially now that *most* of the set-up is done. I like introducing a character, exploring all their possibilities, but my favorite part is when things really get rolling. I like to have the experience of seeing them accomplish something.

Recently, my iMac has been giving me trouble, and after working through *countless* solutions, I'm fairly sure that it's the hard drive going out. I may take it in to have it looked at, but at this point, I'm just not sure it's worth it. My extended care package or whatever it's called has expired, and I'm not sure it's worth paying to get the hard drive replaced when it could end up costing me almost as much as a new PC (as much as I've loved my Mac, I just don't have the money to invest in one again--not right now anyway). So if the choice is between getting a good PC or getting the hard drive replaced on my old(er) iMac, well--we'll see. Everything is backed up on Time Machine, plus my most important stuff is either in Dropbox or on Google Docs, so I'm not going to lose anything major if/when the drive fails.

Until then, I'm just going to keep plugging along, finishing up Dew.

Friday, May 27, 2011


Well, another chunk of Dew written, and making progress. Siniq-elb's getting more and more situated, the world is coming into place around him, problems arising, goals, etc. Still some more setup before the story really gets rolling, but things are falling into position.

I read another interesting post on Magical Words today; don't worry--they're not always interesting. This one was talking about how one way to focus on writing is to think about genre-bending. Now--let me say this clearly--I'm definitely not against this. If anything, I love it. Neil Gaiman is brilliant. I love Michael Chabon's work. These guys are great. A. J. Hartley is right that we should all be trying to think of great, innovative story ideas (and structures) to push the edges of our writing and make us, and our work, better.

On the other hand, a few observations: first, although I don't know him personally, I'm guessing that A. J. Hartley's training as an academic is playing into his evaluation of genre and genre bending. Postmodernism and the idea of 'slipstream' are all very popular, both in the academy and among genre writers, and I think a lot of genre fiction writers would like to think that they are somehow Postmodern or slipstream when, in reality, they're just writing urban fantasy, or some other genre cocktail. I think there's a difference; I've outlined what I believe is the difference between 'L'iterature and genre fiction before, in general terms, so I won't do so again. Second, an interesting premise does not a 'genre-bending' make. I think that's a vital distinction, and it's one that we genre writers often aren't willing to make. We've mapped content pretty effectively onto style. Third, Hartley still links this type of writing to a specific type of success, although I think he makes an effort to break down that association. I'm just not sure such an association is always the case.

Anyway, it's an interesting read, and I think he makes some good points, so go take a look. Meanwhile, you should all take the chance to get the novella 'Black God's War' from Amazon while it's still free!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

More beginnings

I read a post on Magical Words by Lucienne Diver. She talks about beginnings, but it really turns more into a way to avoid info dumps. Both are interesting topics, and certainly beginnings are often fraught with info dumps, but one thing I wish she had talked about was one of my main problems in a lot of genre fiction: the need to spoon-feed the reader.

This happens at the beginning of course: info-dumps on world-building, info-dumps on plot, info-dumps on character. But in a lot of ways, even 'subtle' or non-info dumps (per most speculative fiction standards), feel like spoon-feeding to me. There seems to be this persistent need to tell the reader, and then remind him or her over and over again, of things that have happened.

I think what I'm particularly pointing to is the heavy, clunky prose of a lot of authors. Adverbs and adjectives, or flat out telling what characters are thinking or feeling, rather than working it through the POV.

So to take this back to beginnings--Diver also talks about how one way to avoid info-dumps is to start at the right point. She makes a big deal over the risk of starting too late and then having to do back story info-dumps. I'm not sure I believe this is a problem, or perhaps I'm simply thinking of it differently than she is. To me, it seems most effective to start as late as possible, and then to drop enough specific details about backstory that the reader can fill it in on her own. Right now, working on Siniq-elb, I already feel like I need to go back and add a few more details about his past, but I'm going to rethink it when I look at it next. I trust my readers to put together the backstory of these characters; I don't need to hit them over the head with it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Siniq-elb and beginnings

Well, Siniq-elb's section is underway. Beginning a new POV is always hard. It's almost as difficult as beginning a new book, although in this case, much of the groundwork has already been laid. What *is* difficult, though, is the act of beginning. Finding that spark that will carry the story forward, generating the momentum that will pay off at the end. It's like trying to push a big, heavy rock down a hill. Once you get it started, gravity will take over and do the rest of the work for you.

Ok, it's not a perfect metaphor, but it describes how I'm feeling. What's important is that, in addition to being difficult, beginnings are *fun.* They're this great moment of absolute possibility. Anything can happen. Sparks are flying. Feeling the plot come together, not just in an outline, but in the story itself, is incredibly rewarding.

So beginnings are nice. And so far, Siniq-elb's has been really fun to write. I've already had a couple changes to the plot that I think are going to make it far more satisfying.

On another note, I finished Moses Siregar's novella "The Black God's War." It was fine, although I stumbled in a few places, but I found the idea of a pre-release of one section of a book interesting. In that sense, the novella is not so much a stand-alone as it is a sneak-preview. At least, that's how I understood it. It will be interesting also to see how the full book does this summer when it is released. The novella is definitely worth picking up from Amazon's free list and giving it a shot. I'm now on the first book of David Dalglish's Half-Orc series (the book is titled The Weight of Blood). It's a great title, but I've had a hard time getting into the book, for a lot of reasons. I'm going to stick it out for a little longer and see if it gets better.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Two and a half little things

Two and a half little things:

Most exciting--Ilahe's section is done!! I hit my normal word count for the day, and I was so close that, after I went on a walk, I decided to go ahead and finish it up. I'm so glad I did. It worked so well. A little sad, because every story has some loss, but I think a lot of happiness as well. It made me happy for Ilahe, at least. That means Monday I start on Siniq-elb, who is going to be *fascinating* to write. He's got his own challenges to overcome, but he's such a different character from Ilahe, I'm really excited.

Here's the half: As I was finishing up her section, I was thinking about David Farland's recent Daily Kick on endings, and on how there's a need for multiple endings. When I read the Daily Kick, I was a bit skeptical, since it sounded like too much hammering on the same idea. When I was writing Ilahe's conclusion, though, I realized I was doing something similar, but what I was doing was something like stages or phases of ending. Things that were not only important signals to the reader that we were getting close to the real end, but also things that were necessary for Ilahe to have happen before she could have her ending. I'm not sure if this is exactly what David was talking about--he uses the expression, "We're given much the same ending in each case," and his idea is connected to plot lines--but I think the ideas are related.

Second, I put up a slightly revised version of Fold Thunder, along with a new cover courtesy of Vinh-Khoi Le. I love the cover--it's great.

Here it is:


Friday, May 20, 2011

Character Resolution

Well, I've mostly wrapped up the inner character problems for Ilahe--writing that scene was really rewarding, and in many ways, helps me identify better the problems that I wanted her to face. Now all that's left is the battle itself (I told you there are always more scenes than I expected) and the aftermath. Both very fun parts to write! I'd like to knock it out over the weekend, but I've got quite a bit of other work to do, so we'll see what happens.

On a larger scale, writing this section (and similar character arc resolution for Abass, one of the other POVs for Dew), has gotten me thinking about how to structure, and more importantly, how to make apparent, character arcs in a novel. As I just said, in many ways, it's not until I write the resolution that I'm best able to articulate what the character is struggling to resolve (in emotional terms), and so I often have to go back and realign the rest of the narrative to match. That's fine, and it tends to work well, but it's something that I'm going to be focusing on and thinking about as I work through the last POV (Siniq-elb) and try to figure out more effective ways of writing these character arcs.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sneak peek at Ilahe

As I've mentioned a couple times this week, I'm writing the end to one of the POVs of Dew, and it's been great. I've still got a few scenes left (there are always more than I anticipate, but that's ok), but the next scene is the huge battle for Ilahe. After that, it's basically wrapping up loose threads--but in some ways, that's my favorite part. I'm a big believer that the end shouldn't just be the trip back to Hobbiton aka the Shire. The end should do its own work (of course, that's exactly what Tolkien does--the end is far from a trip back to the Shire).

In fact, after I'd finished my normal quota for today, I was making dinner when the last lines for Ilahe's scene popped into my head and I *had* to write them down. I'm tempted to include them here, but I don't want to spoil the ending--it's too good to ruin. So instead, here are a few lines from Ilahe's opening scene.


The sun scorched Ilahe’s dark skin, so harsh she thought it would flay her to the bones. Not at all like the rainbow light of the Iris, with its smooth, even shadows. She wiped sweat from her brow and flicked it onto the loose stones of the rough mountain path. It dried within heartbeats. Stone kept no mark of her passage. That was the only blessing the Danma mountains offered; perhaps it would keep the priests from tracking her, for a while.


Anyway, that gives you a little taste of Ilahe. She's a tough cookie, but pretty great.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Follow up on Stephen Leather / Konrath

Just a quick follow up--I mentioned a similar idea (writing over self-promotion) on Kindle Boards yesterday, and I was surprised at how violently some people reacted. Mostly the reactions were something along the lines that Konrath does so much self-promotion that it's ridiculous for his blog to suggest anything else.

It seems a bit strange to me, though, that people reacted so strongly. Touched a nerve perhaps? The difference with Konrath, I think, is that he really does have *lots* of books up for sale, and he is constantly releasing more. While I'll probably never like the self-promotion bit, I can't say that people are wrong to do it. I think the thing that bothers me (and that I'm assuming Leather and Konrath are pointing to) is when people release one book and then spend all their time twittering or facebooking or tagging, etc. Not to say those things don't help, just that writing probably deserves a larger share of an author's time.

On my own end, of course, I vastly prefer writing, and so I'll do that any day of the week over self-promotion.

In terms of writing, today was very, very busy, and so no writing on Dew got done. I'll get back to it tomorrow, fortunately. I can't wait to write the next few scenes for Ilahe (one of the POV characters); she's about to have her big turning point, as well as the most awesome battle of her life (yet).

PS--New cover for Fold Thunder coming this weekend. I'm excited to show-and-tell. Cool story behind it too.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Stephen Leather

Back from a week's absence--I tried to post a couple of times last week, but Blogger was down both times, and then the business of real life caught up to me, which brings me to now.

I made some more progress on Dew today, a section that I enjoyed writing. Sometimes I like a particular section because I think the writing is particularly good, or because I think the section works really well--today it was just a section I enjoyed. Lots of action, and moving closer and closer to resolution. Very satisfying.

Last week, Stephen Leather posted on J. A. Konrath's blog. The link is here:

I enjoy and appreciate Konrath's regular posts, although I find the language a bit strong at times (like Dean Wesley Smith), but I really liked Stephen Leather's post. In particular, I think he makes some good points about indie authors: the lack of gatekeepers does lead to the publishing of books that are not particularly good, and indie authors, in general, seem to spend far more time talking about their books than they do writing new ones--or, even more importantly, than they do trying to write *better.* I'm probably guilty of all three, but I will still say, I was shocked to find that on Kindle Boards, in the Writers Cafe, there are so few topics about writing as a craft. Instead, it's always about sales, or about self-promotion, or marketing. Perhaps there are posts about writing as craft, but if so, they haven't made it to the top (meaning, they haven't been discussed much) while I've been looking.

The absolute, most important part of writing is the writing. That sounds redundant, and I'm sure there are many who would disagree with me. In particular, I think of people who hold positions in the bestsellers on Amazon, whose writing is, to be honest, awful. This isn't particularly a time to get into *why* they're on those bestseller lists. I'm sure DWS would give me a tongue lashing about how the only important criterion for judging writing is sales. I'm resistant to that idea, though--I simply refuse to believe that the most important element in writing is its commercial success, or profitability, or whatever you call it. However, I'm willing to concede that, while some books that sell well are not well written, they are nevertheless, 'successful.' That's fine--success is always relative to goals or objectives, and so people are welcome to define it as they will. To say that something is well made, or intelligent, or aesthetically pleasing, though--that's another matter, perhaps subjective in other ways, but a far cry from using sales as a metric for quality.

This is not intended to be any claim to good writing on my part, but good writing is my main goal, and so I'm going to spend more time on writing, and studying craft, than on self-promotion. If it doesn't 'pay off' (a term that reveals capitalism's rampant invasion of our language), that will be fine--I'll have done my best at what I think is most important.

Not to be preachy, but that's what every writer should do--decide for him or herself what is most important about writing, and then be true to that idea.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

David Farland and Literary Elitism

Friends, some more progress has been made on Dew. I'm close to wrapping up the second POV sequence, which means almost 2/3 of the way with the first draft. It'd be lovely to have it done in the next month, but I'm not sure that's realistic. By the end of June, though, for sure (I hope!).

I read an interesting article/email by David Farland today. I subscribe to his Daily Kick, which I recommend to everyone interested in writing and publishing. Today, his topic was prompted by a critique (I assume he means review) by a person whom David calls "an elderly nonfiction editor" (first warning flag). David goes on to claim that this editor's review/critique is representative of a larger trend within a literary establishment (particularly academe) toward an elitism that not only undervalues genre fiction, but actively seeks to destroy it--at least, that's how David makes it sound in the most elevated moments of his rhetoric.

Now, I don't know David, but I've read his Daily Kick for years, and I think I have a decent grasp for how he thinks, or at least for how he presents himself, and I've not seen anything to indicate that David is anything but kind and generous. The Daily Kick is a great example of that generosity and kindness (as well as of smart publicity). However, David's comments are rather high-blown at moments, and in my opinion, they reveal a strain of thinking in the genre fiction community that is uncharitable at best, and toxic at worst.

I'm referring, of course, to the belief that somehow the literary establishment/academe is 'out to get' genre fiction / genre writers--or, in a related sense, that elitism somehow implies hostility. It's a tangled web of associations, and I urge you to read David's article to get the best sense of how he represents it. I encountered similar, although vastly more infuriated, permutations of this sentiment in Brandon Sanderson's fiction writing class--whole sessions of class, it seemed, were dedicated to bashing professors and academe for being too elitist (most of the bashing was done by students, to be fair, not by Brandon).

My comments for today: first, I think David's point of view arises out of a specific approach to literature, namely, that literature's primary purpose is to entertain. David has made similar claims at other times; he'll talk about literature's ability to produce and subsequently relieve stress, to provoke certain emotions, to provide an emotional experience. All of these are signatures of entertainment--and, consequently, of the primary function of the literal text as a source of entertainment.

I don't have anything against this--far from it, actually, since I write genre fiction. And I love to be entertained. However, as a trained academician, and as a humanist, I think this overlooks competing, and equally viable approaches to literature. The approach most common to the academe, and to the literary community, is that the literal text is only part of the story, and that great literature is marked by a superfluity or excess of meaning that can be profitably examined and, through analysis, provide an even richer experience of the text than a surface reading. Related to this is the conception of literature as a primarily aesthetic, not entertaining, experience structured by language--a far cry from the emphasis on 'content' in most genre fiction.

In any case, my point here is not to argue with David (whom I respect), or to pick a bone with the genre fiction community--simply to point out that diatribes against elitism actually participate in almost identical discursive moves by co-opting literature as a form of entertainment, rather than of aesthetics. In essence, 'professors' (for lack of a better term) and genre-fiction lovers speak past each other because they look for different things. The professors that Dave talks about were (most likely) not afraid of their peers, or harboring a secret hatred of genre fiction--in all likelihood, they simply had no interest in reading as a purely entertaining experience, and the explicit literalness of genre fiction prevents it from being a profitable type of writing for the type of reading that literary critics want to do.

I think that's all I have for today, but I'd love to hear other people weigh in on this subject. Thanks go to David Farland for his continued generosity in writing the Daily Kick.