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Friday, September 29, 2006

Writers Are Crazy, But Some Writers Are Crazier Than Others

I was reading this discussion thread from a messageboard about science fiction and writing, when it struck me (and not for the first time): There are some seriously crazy people out there. And some of them aspire to be writers.

There's no space here for a philosophical treatise on "what constitutes madness," or researching its biological roots, so I'll just go on gut feeling: I know madness when I see it.

Paranoia is fairly easy to recognize. Schizophrenia is more subtle, but there are obvious clues (like seeing things that are not there, or referring to "voices telling me to do X"). Obsessive single-mindedness calls attention to itself (to put it lightly). Chronically depressive or aggressive people are... well, chronically obvious.

And when crazy people write, or write about their writing... boy, does madness show through.
:-(

My pet theory about crazy writers goes like this:
The less talented a writer is, the more blatantly his/her mental "issues" show through in his/her fiction writing.

You know the old cliché about "inspired madness"? It ain't true. Of all the crazy people in the world, only a small minority are creative or inspired in a positive sense. Most of them are mediocre, untalented and narrow-minded.

The truly mad and talented - like, say, Philip K. Dick or Vincent van Gogh - are very, very few.

Now, I'm not saying crazy people shouldn't be writing! Maybe it's therapeutic. I don't know. It's better than murdering people in the streets, I suppose. What really annoys me about crazy writers is just one thing: they insist on being taken seriously.

No matter what the specific madness is - a crank invention that doesn't work, conspiracy theories, persecution manias, psychotic bigotry, feverish hallucinations, or just bipolar mood swings - crazy writers demand that you keep a straight face, that their causes are Sacred, Gravely Serious Matters and Not To Be Taken Lightly.
(Isn't a sane pompous blowhard annoying enough?)

It's funny that the cliché of the laughing, cackling, wise-cracking, comedic madman ISN'T true. Most mad writers are guaranteed to bore you out of your skull.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

TERRA HEXA III - The Early Days

I am now in the process of writing the first synopsis for the third TERRA HEXA book.

This got going only once I had figured out a suitable "theme" for the story, something that can hold the plot and its threads together. And the theme is... but that would be telling. ;-)

I like to think of a novel in terms of levels:

-Theme (i.e. "idea")
-Plot
-Environment
-Character arc

... in that order. Theme and plot are more important than character arc. While characters matter, they alone do not carry a story. But that's just my opinion...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Hero With A Thousand Wrong Names

Let the Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang teach you how NOT to name a fictional character... in this hilarious MST3K clip: "The Many Names Of David Ryder".

"Butch Deadlift!!"
"Blast Hardcheese!!"
"Punch Rockgroin!!"
"Dirk Hardpec!!"
"Big McLargeHuge!!"
(etc.)

:)

Monday, September 25, 2006

My Report From The BOK & BIBLIOTEK Book Tradeshow (Gothenburg, Sept. 21-24)



The BOK & BIBLIOTEK 2006 book tradeshow was a fun and inspiring experience. I met and talked to other writers - Richard Morgan, K G Johansson, Jorun Modén (pictured left), and Cecilia Wennerström.

I also met people who write about or publish my writings - Kent Björnsson from publisher Schakt; Lilian Wiberg and Robert Andersson from the magazine MITRANIA - and the very nice personnel from the shop SF-Bokhandeln (based in Gothenburg and Stockholm). People from the website Sci-Fi Nytt also dropped by say hello.

But most importantly... in my publisher's booth, and at the book-signing event at the booth of SF-Bokhandeln, I got to meet my readers face to face.

Most of the TERRA HEXA readers I met and talked to were in their lower teens - some no older than 10. It's my hope that they will follow the book series as they grow up.

I want to emphasize here, how important it is what readers say about books from small publishers.
Every reader matters!
Many of them think, "Nobody cares about my opinion."
Not true! Every little comment or mini-review of TERRA HEXA affects its sales and success. Only through the continued support of its fans can a book series reach a "critical threshold" where it becomes seriously profitable.
So if you want the TERRA HEXA series to continue past the third book, then please make your voice heard - on weblogs, messageboards, to your friends and libraries.

P.S.: And just like at last year's book fair, we had the traditional Weirdo Visit to the publisher's booth. (If a weirdo doesn't show up, I get worried... it doesn't feel like a real tradeshow without one.)

Tall Old Lady: "Have you got Märta Louise's (the Norwegian crown princess') book?"
Me/Publisher: "No, this is Wela. We don't publish her books."
Tall Old Lady: "I thought I heard you speak Norwegian. Do you sell Märta Louise's book?"
Me/Publisher: "No, sorry... but you could ask in the bigger publishers' booths, over there."
Tall Old Lady: "I'm looking for Märta Louise's book."
Me/Publisher: "Sorry, we don't know anything about it. But maybe the big publishers can help you."
Tall Old Lady: "You sounded like you came from Norway. Do you sell Märta Louise's book? I'm looking for her book."

Eventually she left, visibly disappointed that we wouldn't admit our secret Norwegian citizenship. That was a close call. She nearly uncovered the Norwegian conspiracy to infiltrate Sweden's publishing industry!!
;-)

First Photos And Movies From The BOK & BIBLIOTEK Book Tradeshow

Go HERE to see my photos from the trade show (with text).

Go HERE to see my short movies from the trade show (with audio).

A report will follow...

If This Is Romance...

Read Liz Hunt's comment in the Telegraph article "Can Men Write Romantic Novels?"... and then ask yourself, So to some women, love is all about finding a man who's wearing the proper attire at all times?

Seriously: how many of you women out there think the central point of a written love story is what CLOTHES the guy is wearing?

OK, I'm not alien to the idea that a shabby appearance says something about a person's mental state... but this doesn't seem to be what Liz Hunt is talking about.

Sure, men can get fixated on what women wear, and insist that they put on certain items... but then it's not called "romantic", noooo... then it's called a "clothes fetish"!

First, Hunt claims that only women understand how to write about deep, brooding, obsessive love for a single woman.
Then she quotes Charlotte Bingham, saying "that a soul, or heart might be longing to make the right kind of romantic sounds, but will be turned away for no better reason than that he has plumped for wearing fawn which, alas, doesn't do a thing for her".

It can't be a very deep or brooding love these two women are capable of, then. And this would explain why I can't write romance novels. I'm just not shallow enough.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Update on the Scandinavian Book Tradeshow This Weekend

My publisher Wela's booth at Bok & Bibliotek lies next to the café in the middle of the convention floor.

See you there on Friday, Saturday and Sunday!
:)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Even More TERRA HEXA Moychandise!


The Scandinavian Bok & Bibliotek book tradeshow is nearing, and I've added even more merchandise to my TERRA HEXA Shop at CafePress: posters, wall clocks, and whatnot!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Avast, Mates! Be Ye prepared For "Talk Like A Pirate" Day?

Ahoy! Don't ye forget, mates, that September 19 be TALK LIKE A PIRATE Day!

Be ye buccaneers, scurvy dogs, salty seafarers, wee jim lads, wenches or lasses, bring ye cutlasses and eye-patches... or ye be scurvy landlubbers, not even fit for Davy Jones' locker!

For the beginner pirate, here be the essential instruction film:
HOW TO TALK LIKE A PIRATE.

Harrr!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

It Was A Dark And Stormy Homepage Update...

This week's homepage update:

1. A new "Precinct 20" story, "Natural Enemy" (GRANDCHILDREN ADVISORY: Offensive To Little Old Ladies).

2. The READING BOOK, Chapter 14: "Old Age" (GRANDCHILDREN ADVISORY: Offensive To Old Farts).

3. A new greeting-card service.

The next homepage will come in two weeks, not one: I'll be busy with the Bok & Bibliotek tradeshow in Gothenburg (Sept. 21-24). Come visit our booth!

Meet Me At The Scandinavian Book Fair (Sept. 21-24)

If you are in Sweden during Sept.21-24, come visit the booth of my publisher Wela.

I will be there Sept.22-24 (Friday to Sunday) to sign books during lunch hours, meet readers, schmooze, hawk TERRA HEXA II, and check out other books.

Also present in Wela's booth will be the Swedish fantasy writers Jorun Modén (making a very impressive debut with the novel SAMAEL), K G Johansson (GLASTORNEN) and Cecilia Wennerstrom (SAGAN OM RAND).

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Unbearable Lightness of Crappy Generic Fantasy

September 15, 2006, is a day that will live in infamy.

On that day, for the first time, I read a few pages of a Robert Jordan novel. Then I stomped on the book in a fit of rage, and proceeded to attack it with a hammer. (Witnesses can testify that my feet missed the cover, but the hammer did not.)

Why did I get so mad?

Because that book was so terribly written. Almost all the sentences were awkward in one way or another; they seemed like a sloppy first draft. Some sentences were literally unintelligible.

A best-selling writer, dammit! Couldn't he afford a proofreader? Couldn't the publisher afford an editor? Books of that kind will surely read better in translation. It is almost impossible to translate them without improving the writing -- i.e. making it legible.

A friend showed the book to me. He and his fiancée, both intelligent people with a higher education, admit that Robert Jordan can't write. And yet they keep reading his interminable "sagas".

Why, God? Why?

This isn't about snobbery. It's about craftsmanship. If I bought a Robert Jordan book, I'd expect at least the basic requirements of a printed paperback to be fulfilled:

1. The manuscript has been edited;
2. The prose is coherent;
3. The customer will not feel ripped off.

One can write entertaining adventure fiction and at the same time pay a minimum of attention to clear, lucid language, functioning grammar and style. It's called "writing the second draft."

Then again, if readers are prepared to pay for the first draft, why try harder? If Robert Jordan is the measure of success, then why make the effort to write passable prose, or put any shred of creative effort into it?

In other words, why take any pride in your work?

"But he's made a lot of money," you say. "Money is the measure of success and quality."

I don't know why those books sell. Maybe reading them is like going to McDonald's: You know exactly what you get, and fast. The McBook. Maybe people are so overstimulated in today's world, they use Wheel of Time books to let their brains rest?

But no, that explanation doesn't quite work. Smooth, spare prose is easier to read than clunky, badly written prose littered with half-finished thoughts.

Can someone please explain to me why people pay money for the equivalent of a hamburger that's got worms in it?
And eat it?
And then ask for another worm-infested burger?

ADDENDUM:
But don't take my word for it. Listen to other critics here. And here. And here.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Book Cover Artist Looking For Work


Now, I'm nowhere near
a great illustrator. I know my limitations (can't draw horses in motion, human anatomy tends to look a bit stiff)...
... but my Swedish publisher lets me create my own book covers, and I enjoy the work.

So I'm looking for book cover assignments. If you are a struggling small-press author and can't spend a fortune, but want a decent-looking, solid cover done... contact me! If you are really short on cash and I like your book, you can pay me with two copies of it.

(Please note: I reserve the right to turn down a job offer if I don't think the book is of at least passable quality, or if its subject matter simply does not appeal to me.)

Here are samples of my cover art designs.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Elizabeth Bear On Letting Go

Best-selling writer Elizabeth Bear blogs about when to quit working your manuscript.

Quote:
"They're all broken. Every one of them. Every novel I've published, every novel I've sold, every novel I've ever read has something wrong with it. Every novel I've ever loved is irretrievably [****]ing broken, all right?

Broken in ways that can't be fixed. It doesn't matter.

And no matter what you do, there will be people who dislike your work.

That's okay. In fact, I would venture to say that you can't write a book that some people will love unless there are also other people who will hate it. Strong emotion is not raised for the bland, my darlings."

Read the rest.

This Homepage Update Can Be Yours... If The Price Is Right!

This week's homepage update has nothing to with "the" 9/11. It consists only of another "MSTing" of a chapter from my SF novel DARC AGES.

To "MST3K" my own book is not only great fun. It has also highlighted the writing flaws in the "MSTed" chapters so much, that I'm now re-editing them in the CafePress chapbook edition.

Fortunately, it's technically very easy to update the POD(Print-On-Demand) chapbook...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

TERRA HEXA Books In A Book Club

My first TERRA HEXA novel was picked up by Swedish publisher Wahlstroms' fantasy book-club (see brochure image), and the sequel TERRA HEXA II has been included in the book-club's selection (see other brochure image) for this year. Thank you, Wahlstroms.

"Grope These And My Foot Will Grope Your Face"

I have just created this T-shirt design for my CafePress shop. Its slogan, "GROPE THESE AND MY FOOT WILL GROPE YOUR FACE," was inspired by a much-blogged "incident" in which a Well-Known Writer groped a female colleague's breast on stage during an awards ceremony.

ADDENDUM: And on another CafePress shop, someone has created these cool-looking Harlan Ellison Memorial T-Shirts.
I say "Shop Till You Drop."

Monday, September 04, 2006

Jenn Reese On The "Growth Cycle of a Writer"

Read Jenn Reese's list "Growth Cycle of a Writer".

Where are YOU in the 8 stages of the writer's growth cycle?

(Personally, I feel like I'm bouncing around between Stage 5: Chrysalis and Stage 6: Awakening...)

Sunday, September 03, 2006

"Oh No! We've Got Homepage Update Sign!"


Being a longtime fan of MST3K (Mystery Science Theater 3000) , I had a lot of fun when I read this MST3K-style "riff" of the infamous story THE EYE OF ARGON:

MSTing The Eye Of Argon

And to be honest, I'm a bit behind in my fiction-writing schedule. So in the spirit of my favorite TV comedy series, and in a desperate attempt to stall for time, I have made a MST3K-style "riff" on my own novel DARC AGES.

Snide comments and cheap jokes are inserted into the novel, as if some smartass was commenting on the story while you read. Without further ado, I give you...

The MSTing of DARC AGES

If you appreciate this kind of humor, and want me to continue the "MSTing" of DARC AGES, please drop me a note. :)