Hobbit Tomatoes

There’s a scene in “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings” in which the hobbits are camping on Weathertop, waiting for Aragorn to do some scouting. Frodo falls asleep, but Merry, Pippin and Sam decide to start a little fire and cook some food. When Frodo wakes, his friends offer him “tomatoes, sausages and nice crispy bacon.”

A number of filmgoers became upset with this, because they felt that tomatoes, being a New World food item, didn’t belong in the setting. You read that correctly – the story is about four little humanoids carrying a magical ring to destroy in a volcano, being escorted by a 90 year old ranger who rode and fought as if he was in his thirties, under the direction of a wizard, but somehow tomatoes didn’t make sense.

I read about this in the afterword of a novel* I just finished, and it […]

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Naming Your Baby

Shortly after graduating from college, I moved into my first apartment. I purchased curtains and kitchen utensils, and started learning how to budget for utility bills and such. And I adopted a puppy. She was a beautiful black English Setter/Golden Retriever mix, very loving and sweet and not even much of a chewer-on-shoes. I was determined to come up with the perfect name, something that would communicate her beauty and calm nature. In the meantime, I called her Baby, because I had to call her something, right?

Eleven years later, when she died, I was still calling her Baby.

Titles are easy for some people, but not for me. Even when I think I have a great title, I worry that it’s not hitting just the right note. The title works similarly to the first line in hooking a reader. It’s even more crucial in some ways, especially once your […]

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You’re Just Being Nice

I danced in a show on Saturday night. All by myself, to a song that I love (Come With Me Now, by Kongos) and I had an absolutely wonderful time. Afterward, people were telling me that I did a great job, and that they enjoyed my performance. A man I’d never seen before in my life made a point of telling me how much fun my performance had been. I smiled and thanked all of them – who doesn’t love hearing that their art was successful? The complication is that inside I was telling myself they were just being nice. Because like so many of us, I can’t believe that anything I do is really any good.

There’s an actual syndrome – impostor syndrome, a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. I don’t know that I suffer from an actual syndrome, but I know that […]

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Misty Massey: Diving Back In

Well, hey y’all! It’s been a while, and I’m tickled to be posting today.

There are a lot of things no one tells you when you finally sell a book. They don’t tell you how long it will take for checks to come in. It takes a long, long time – it’s usually one check on contract signing, one check on manuscript delivery and the last one on release. That wonderful dollar amount you saw on the initial offer looks a little depressing when it’s broken into chunks over the course of months. They don’t tell you that you might have to completely rewrite your book once the editor has gotten a nice, close look at it. It’s called an editorial letter, but it’s really a long, sad list of all the things you didn’t know the editor didn’t like. They don’t tell you that you’ll have to handle your […]

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The ending of a story can sometimes be the most important part. In a fable, it’s where the lesson is communicated. In a romance, it’s where the happily-ever-after happens. We spend a lot of time polishing and refining the beginning, making sure the hook line is sharp and that the introduction of characters is compelling. The ending needs the same amount of care, so that when the reader finishes that last page, she closes the book with a satisfied sigh instead of a grumble. Some writers start their novels with only a vague idea of what the ending will look like. Others know exactly what the end will be, and find themselves trying to pull the story together in order to fit that clear ending. As we’ve said many times around here, there’s no one right way to write your novel, so whichever of these describes you is perfectly okay. […]

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Turning the Ethical Upside-Down

Last week we talked about ethical situations in speculative fiction, and how they appear even when we might not be intending to write about them. Everything our characters do is dependent on their ethical beliefs, and when they make a move that conflicts with those beliefs, it needs to be hard for them and important to the story, or it just won’t feel valid.

Have you ever read a book review in which the reviewer complains that the protagonist behaved stupidly? It’s annoying to read something and know that the character we’re most connected to isn’t being smart. Sometimes it’s not that the character was actually stupid, but that he has done something that didn’t fit with his behavior up to that point. It generally means the author needed something specific to happen in her story and couldn’t think of a better way to drive things forward. If you’re […]

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Ethics in Speculative Fiction

I spent this weekend at Mysticon, in Roanoke VA, where I learned a few things, taught a few other things, observed wacky behaviors and brilliant ones, too, and generally had a great time surrounded by my people. I rode up with Gail Martin and John Hartness. We drove through nearly impenetrable fog and snow-covered hills, chatting and laughing all the way. On Saturday morning, I joined John to read our work to an appreciative audience, and premiered Miniature Pirate Theater as accompaniment to the reading. Trust me, you haven’t lived until you’ve watched tiny plastic pirates work a tiny plastic stripper pole while John reads from Bubba the Monster Hunter. Gail’s launch party for her latest, Ice Forged, was a raucous affair, full of happy people eating cake and buying books. I met a couple of writers who’ll probably be making guest appearances here later on this year, and got […]

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