On a Roll

I am currently on a 2 or 3 night roll with my writing of Crystal City, the follow-up to Children of Fire and book 2 of 6 planned. And it is great. I’d actually forgotten what first draft novels felt like to write. I’ve done a few short stories lately, but one was an old start to COF with a new element introduced, which I scrapped for a more recent idea (taken from an Adventure Time episode, but more of a serious post-apocalypse setting that I haven’t worked out yet but am interested in fleshing out some time.

I don’t know whether I’ll do more Elemental series work straight after CC, I might give Zephyr Wind, my steampunk-with-supernatural-elements short stories another go, aiming to maybe turn them into novellas, since there’s so much going on in the first one.

I have a few other ideas, in various stages (none more than a chapter, actually).

The Silver Shard is an epic fantasy, not likely to be Grimdark but not entirely whimsical and light-hearted either. It’s what TvTropes calls “Magepunk”; if you’ve played the Eberron setting for D&D, it’s that. That will probably be a trilogy. The books might be pretty short. But I’m interested in one more try – I’ve tried to write a good first chapter about 3 times, and nothing’s stuck.

Ghost Titan is a mecha V kaiju book. No, Pacific Rim did NOT come up with Kaiju, those have been around forever in Japanese film. Godzilla is the iconic kaiju. That’s about how long it’s been around, though probably longer than him.

Aeon Force is going to be giant robots as well, though I *could* just combine the two. I have no idea where I’m going with Aeon Force. But it’s like a dark and gritty Power Rangers or Voltron or something. They tend to fight kaiju, but maybe they could fight terrorists instead? Mech vs mech, in other words. I could recycle some elements from the stuff I wrote as a teen, which is where COF got its characters from, but I’d be using stuff I never actually wrote.

So many ideas, many of which were simply to stretch my muscles and do “something else” for a bit. And that’s not to mention old stuff, like Swords and Spirits, (epic fantasy, YA) or Shift Chaser (superhero with a parallel-universe shapeshifter) if I ever want to go back to them (probably not).



I’ve been writing my next book (woo!) and I punched out this doozy of a sentence.

Jarred scratched his chin as he looked at the barricade – six bandits, literal highwaymen in this case, patrolling on the top, divided evenly along its length where it spanned the opposite bank of the Caboolture River for a kilometre total, with a gate at the western end – Jarred figured, after a moment, for getting boat tolls in addition to cars along the Bruce Highway.

And it occurred to me that, holy crap, that’s terrible.

So I ran it through an app for editing (robotic stuff that doesn’t know the complexity of human language, sure, but better than hitting publish on utter crap) and saw just how bad that was.

Jarred scratched his chin as he looked at the barricade. Six bandits, literal highwaymen in this case, patrolled the top, three on each side of the river. It appeared to be the same kind of setup as the lighting for concerts, above the stage, only this had metal panels riveted all over, save for a few patches needing maintenance. The whole thing covered both bridges, and had four gates – one for the northbound traffic, one for the southbound, and two for boat traffic.

MUCH better, I think you’ll agree. See how it ISN’T a jumbled mess? I broke it down, then built it back up from the ground.

It’s not a bad idea to go over the whole thing again, really iron out the wrinkles, smooth the edges, that sort of thing. But a simple rewriting did the trick, this time (I put effort in – otherwise my rewrites suck, often worse than the original pass).

Let this be a lesson to the creative types who are deathly allergic to editing: it’s hard, but you need to do it. It helps, believe me.


Rejection responses

Listen, writers: I know you’ve been told to be proud of your rejections. I say that’s a load of crock! Sure, learn from them where possible, get closure in knowing that it wasn’t right for them at that time, take comfort that J K Rowling got rejected by literally every publisher in the UK until Bloomsbury decided to do the unthinkable and give Harry Potter to a kid to read, and I know that it’s a good idea to learn from mistakes and from rejection… but putting your rejection slips in pride of place on your mantlepiece? You realise you’re celebrating REJECTION, right? That is all. That and buy my book.


Serendipity, I think

I went to Dymocks today, didn’t say hi to the manager, who I know from my writers group, but I did buy a book. It’s a Hodderscape book, as it turns out. (Some members of my writing group submitted pieces to them for their recent open door submission period). The book is basically like Firefly with aliens.

Also, I figure none of you know this, but I actually go to church. I don’t count myself Christian though, my brother’s really into it and I go for food, community, and scholarly interest in bible stuff (the food is usually amazing). Anyway, we’re studying the book of Esther and just this week I was watching Dollhouse, and the episode where she goes to the cult came up. Among the bad guy’s lessons was talk of – drumroll – the book of Esther. What is that? Serendipity? Or just mere coincidence? Or merely God reminding me to get back to the book passage?

In less nice timing, my computer decided to reject my USB stick so hard that it knocked the port out of alignment, and now I have to choose an option to fix the problem: see what my dad can do (he’s in IT), get a USB extension cable or else a keyboard with USB ports for $20 (I think both options are that much), or see what a computer repair place can do (probably more expensive). This is something of a woe for me. At the same time, my laptop’s decided it doesn’t like me using the track pad mouse thing, either. Go tech.

On a better note, I have an idea for a story. I haven’t gotten very far with it yet though. I could post it here or maybe on Inkspired when I’ve written it.


Strong Female Characters

“Strong female character” doesn’t mean “angry dude with a vagina”. Such characterisation is basic a.f. It doesn’t stretch the writing muscles, its not even really a character, more just a charicature, and it probably insults feminists, the people that you write strong female characters FOR (primarily, anyway). The thing is, just being a badass is not the ONLY type of S.F.C. Carers and Whores and Teachers and even Homemakers can all be strong, without being ballsy badass bitches.

She doesn’t have to be an MMA fighter to be strong. Also, not every female character needs to be strong, because – and this will get me kicked out of my liberal-minded writers groups – NOT ALL WOMEN ARE STRONG. I’ve known some very weak women in my time, and while it’s good to have strong examples to emulate, not all women are strong, and I don’t subscribe to the belief that ALL female characters need to be strong to tell a good story. But, that said, there should be at least one or two who are. Keep it varied, in other words. It’s still an issue in 2015, just as it was in Victorian England times and in the 1950s. But do not mistake muscly, ass-kicking female as the ONLY way to write strong female characters. It’s good to have badass ladies, don’t get me wrong. Just remember they should be 3-dimensional, if that’s the way you’re going to go.

Writing stuff

Sex and Violence in the Apocalypse

Sex and violence – nothing sells better, is the thinking of many a cynical director or movie studio manager. I’m wondering if we’re getting over violence, or if we’re just getting bored by it due to some variation on the Caligula Effect, where over-indulgence in something means you soon bore of it and seek out more extreme flavours of the thing to get your kicks? Probably not – we’ve got a million Marvel movies and Liam Neeson vehicles and Bourne clones, so I think the public are still hungry for violence. Or movie violence, anyway, which looks nothing like the real thing. For a great look at writing realistic violence, Write the Fight Right  is just great.

Sex is sex. We’ll probably never get tired of sex on TV and movies, because Sex Sells.

(Sings the Family Guy theme song)

So. With that out of the way, in my latest book (barely a page in) I have an opportunity to use a trope I hate and subvert it, avert it, or otherwise mess with it. The trope is horrible, so GRAPHIC CONTENT WARNING, and goes through some variation of this (and spoilers for Mad Max 1 and  2, and The Book of Eli): so, boy and girl are walking down post-apocalyptic road. Gang of bandits/raiders/thugs/bad guys come by. Bad guys shoot boy, then rape girl. In Eli, he gets vengeance on the bad guys who did the act, when they walk into the bar he’s in. But it’s over and done with in moments and promptly forgotten about for the plot to move on. I like the movie but hate that bit. Mad Max 1, I think the two cops happen upon a girl traumatised by this, but I’ve only seen that one once. I recall it happening in Mad Max 2 but not what happens after, though I *think* the gang are part of Lord Humungous’ army.

I haven’t seen nearly half of the list of apocalypse movies, but 3 times does look like a trend, and I get why lesser writers use it – because it’s shocking and evil and bad and illustrates how evil the badguys are. And then the hero gets to beat up the badguys (he witnesses it 2/3 times) and make them pay, and sure, it’s cathartic justice. But the plot moves on with little or no comfort to the poor girl who’s traumatised by this.

Apocalypse is a horror genre, mind you. It’s just that it’s also an action genre, and the action genre rarely has REAL consequences in the story. If a woman is killed, she’s Fridged – stuffed into the coffin (in one case an actual fridge) and this motivates the hero to seek vengeance.

So that’s my thoughts on a trope that I realised I *could* use at this juncture of my latest story, *but* I am leaning towards deconstruction or subversion of the trope, or exploring the consequences to the victim, or something like that.