Books For Which I Am Thankful (An Early Thanksgiving Post)

My regular week off from MW coincides with Thanksgiving week, which is convenient, because I will be traveling with my daughter to look at colleges in NY and New England, so I wouldn’t really have time to post anyway. But that means that my Thanksgiving post comes a week early this year.

As always I am thankful for so much — I’m a very lucky man. I love my family, and they seem to love me back, which is always good thing. I enjoy my job, and have had a successful year, revolving around the release of THIEFTAKER, which has done well both commercially and critically. And I have friends and colleagues here at MW and elsewhere whom I respect and care about a great deal. Are there things I would like to improve in my life — in particular in my career? Of course. I’m not claiming that all […]

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Writing To Our Strengths, or What I Learned From Barry Zito

For all of you out there who are not sports fans — in particular baseball fans — forgive me my self-indulgence. But this was just too good a “teaching moment” to pass up.

On Friday, the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants played the fifth game of their National League Championship Series. The Cardinals had battered the Giants in the previous game, taking a commanding 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven series, and heading into the fifth game the Giants seemed to be in real trouble. (I’m writing this before Sunday night’s game, so I don’t know what happened with Game 6. Frankly, it’s not important. You’ll see: This isn’t really about baseball at all.)

Moreover, the Giants’ starting pitcher for Game 5, Barry Zito, was not exactly the kind of pitcher who strikes fear in the heart of opposing batters or fans. At thirty-four years old, Zito is […]

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On Writing: Characters to Love, Characters to Hate

I’ve been asked quite often why I never went back to write more books in my first series, the LonTobyn Chronicle. There are several reasons — I had other things I wanted to write, I had completed the story I set out to tell, I felt that I outgrew the worldbuilding — but probably the main reason is that I got bored with my lead characters, Jaryd and Alayna. They were both so . . . nice (and I say that with as much of a sneer as I can manage) that after a while I just wanted to slap them both. They were virtuous and kind, generous and wise beyond their years. Their faults were superficial, their magical powers the stuff of future legend. They were, in short, just the sort of people I would wind up hating in real life. By the end of the series, they seemed […]

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Writer Identity: Who do you want to be?

“I wanna be Bob Dylan. Mr. Jones wishes he was someone just a little more funky…”

(Counting Crows)

Fantasy folks—writers, movie buffs, cosplay devotees, gamers and all the other kind of people you might rub elbows with at a major convention—are united by the playful desire to be someone else. No, I’m not saying such folk (myself included) are delusional or in some kind of denial about who they really are, hence my use of the word “playful.” I mean that we often play a version of the ‘what if’ game which hinges on imagining you are someone different.

This is, I think, healthy, and today I’d like to indulge the impulse a little, but give it a literary spin, and not towards imagining yourself as a literary character (though that might be a fun game for another day). So, simple question: which writer would you most like to be?

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Writing on the Edge of Genre

I’ve always been fascinated by art which is hard to classify: music that hovered between punk and reggae, say, or jazz and alternative rock. For me the blend is itself interesting, forming a new liminal category just outside the realms of the normal and familiar. I love it in writing too, and though it can be hard to pull off, it’s striking and eye-catching when it works.

Sometimes these fringe experiments spawn whole new subgenres. Fantasy used to be notoriously limited as a genre: if it didn’t have elves and dwarves, it wasn’t fantasy. Those days are, thankfully, far behind us, and the genre is all the richer for it, many of the subsets of contemporary fantasy having formed from hybrids: urban fantasy, for instance, at least in some of its forms, might be thought of as a blending of old fantasy with contemporary mystery or thriller, and as such […]

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Writing Your Book, part VII: The Beginning of the End

It’s been several weeks since my last “Writing Your Book” post. Last time, as you may or may not remember, I wrote about “The End Game,” the devices that we use to set up our endings, and the hints that we plant early in a manuscript. Today I’d like to build on that by focusing on the final chapters of your project, and the elements of storytelling that you ought to keep in mind as you turn your attention to the Beginning of the End.

What makes for a great ending to a book? It’s more than just plot, though of course, tying up those narrative threads is part of the process. A satisfying close to your novel should tie together narrative development in most if not all of your plot threads, character growth among the major players in your book, and larger issues embedded in your worldbuilding or the […]

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The Silence

Every now and then, I drop in to Neil Gaiman’s site to see where he’s travelling and what he’s thinking about. A few days ago, Neil quoted from science fiction author Samuel R. Delaney’s letters:

“Writers are people who write. By and large, they are not happy people. They’re not good at relationships. Often they’re drunks. And writing — good writing — does not get easier and easier with practice. It gets harder and harder — so eventually the writer must stall out into silence.The silence that waits for every writer and that, inevitably, if only with death (if we’re lucky the two may happen at the same time: but they are still two, and their coincidence is rare), the writer must fall into, is angst-ridden and terrifying – and often drives us mad. ”

He seems to be of the opinion that good writing only comes from a deep […]

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