Guilty Feet Have Got No Rhythm

Over on The Dragon’s Rocketship Facebook page I posted a graphic commenting on one of my least favorite tropes in film.  It’s something that might be called: The Awful Choice. 

Plotholes

The point that I was trying to make is that while it is presented to the character and the audience as two options (“cut the chain”; which is impossible or “cut off your foot”; which is horrible) there is actually a third option–”cut the pipe”; which would completely defuse the drama of the scene.

Now, some people wanted to argue about the practicality of cutting the pipe (as a maintenance man I am used to working iron pipe, and it would take time, but I think it would be perfectly possible) and some people pointed out that the poor judgments by characters are not technically “plot holes”, which I will grant.  It’s like that insurance commercial that says, “When you’re in a horror movie you make bad decisions.”

What I found most interesting were comments made that complained that getting bogged down in technical details detracted from the story.

I disagree.  I think that the technical details are the story.  That particular scene depends upon technical details–the relative hardness of bone and tempered steel versus the cutting power of a hacksaw blade.  It simply requires the audience to ignore one relevant detail–the hardness of the pipe–and accept the other two.

I think that’s cheating.

I write about things that are impossible, and I expect my readers to accept them as if they are possible.  However, I also follow what I call Consensual Suspension Of Disbelief. To sum up that article, I believe that suspension of disbelief is both negotiated and limited. The example that I use in that article is the TV show The Walking Dead.  Viewers of the show know from the onset that it is about zombies, and are willing to accept that or they wouldn’t be watching.

That doesn’t mean that the writers are then allowed to break natural laws whenever they choose.  It is perfectly reasonable to complain about inaccuracies in the portrayal of firearms because, as I say in my article, “Zombies were negotiated.  Magic guns were not.”

I think that deviating from what the audience has specifically agreed to accept as possible weakens any story.  On the director’s commentary the writer mentions a scene in the original script in which the photographer cut a different section of pipe to find a clue.  That scene was not in the shooting script because the writer didn’t want the audience to consider cutting the pipe as an option.

When you break the rules that you have made in order to advance the plot, you are weakening your story.  God is in the details, and you are God of your worlds.  Get the details right.

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Is Not Perfect Better Than Not At All?

I have been reviewing my first three books as part of getting started on my fourth, and while I enjoy them, it’s clear that they could stand to be professionally edited.

However, given the cost of editing compared with my sales, it’s also clear that it would be financially prohibitive to do so.  The total profit that I have made from the sales of all three books over the last three years would cover only a fraction of the cost of editing one book.

I don’t believe that editing would boost my sales considerably, either.  Having these books edited might result in a few more sales, but I don’t believe that I would suddenly start selling a hundred times as many books as I am now, which is what I would need to recoup the costs.

I have a choice, to either continue to release books that are self-edited, or not release them at all.  I have had enough positive feedback that I believe that my readers are willing to put up with the errors for the sake of the story.

Posted in On Promotion, On Publishing, On Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

All The Devils That Disturbed Me And The Angels That Defeated Them Somehow

I have a diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder. It’s what used to be called Multiple Personality Disorder.  I spent a lot of time in therapy. working with a childhood trauma specialist, and I am a very high functioning dissociative.

My character Catskinner is based on my own experiences.  He is what is called a protector alter, however I have fictionalized his perceptions and certain other aspects of the James & Catskinner system.

I am currently listening to the audiobook version of Catskinner’s Book, read by the talented Brandon McKernan.  Hearing Brandon bring my words to life has reminded me of Catskinner as a person–not human, but possessed of his own desires and emotions, alien as they are.

I need that reminder.  It would be all to easy to make Catskinner a plot device, just a BFG that James can pull out when he’s in a jam.  I don’t think I quite crossed that line in Cannibal Hearts and The Worms Of Heaven, but I can feel that temptation.

Catskinner is a hard character to write.  I have put a lot of work into the metaphysics and pseudoscience behind my novels.  It’s important work, I think, because suspension of disbelief can be such a fragile thing.  With each novel I have more data to keep organized and consistent.  If I say that something works a particular way in one book I have to make sure that it works the same way in every book. (For example, I find myself wishing that I hadn’t given the Ambimorphs such inhuman eyes, but it’s something that I committed to working with.)

Consistency of facts is only half of the story, though.  I also have to make the people who inhabit my strange world consistent.  People do change, of course.  Nancy, for example, is in the process of rewiring her own brain with the help of her symbiote and that shows in her personality.  I have to be careful not to lose what my characters appealing as people, though.

People like Catskinner, and what they like about him isn’t the technical nuts and bolts of how Orthovores function, it’s his black ironic humor and his passionate care for James.  I need to remember that.

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Rerun: Epilogue

[Originally posted on January 31, 2013.  It was read on a podcast, but unfortunately the link to that is dead now.]

“What kind of monster are you?” she asked
And I said, “What kind of monster would you like me to be?”

So, anyway, I had just gotten out of the Duchy lockup—total bullshit rap, the sheriff was looking for some good ink and nabbed a bunch of us on a conspiracy beef. I didn’t even know most of the other guys. The public defender told us to just play cool, and once the papers got done squawking about how safe the good people of Forest Green felt now and how much they loved the sheriff, la la la, we all plead down and got out with time served.

Except one of the guys I did know, Billy the G, decides he’s gonna make a constitutional issue out of it, pleads not guilty, and gets sent up to the Big Rock. Which just goes to show, stupid can strike at any moment.

Me, I know better. I kept my big mouth shut and my big eyes on the floor and let the mouthpiece do the talking. “Yes, Your Honor, my client used to be big and bad, but now he’s repentant and reformed, la, la la.” I can do that innocent act in my sleep.

The only real change in my circumstance was I got me a new PO. Well, it did so happen that some old business got settled while I was in the Duchy, but the fat little bastard had it coming. He burned me in a real estate deal, years back, but I got a long memory.

My new PO, he wasn’t a new kid who thinks he can save me from myself or one of those dried up old geezers who wants to bring back the ax, he was reasonable. Practical, you know.

He got me a square job in a butcher shop. Never been much of a nine-to-fiver, myself, but I do know my way around a good cut of meat and if you’re going to be chasing a paycheck there are worse things to do. Believe me, I’ve done most of them.

My new boss was one of those guys who was raised up in the business, married his childhood sweetheart, junior chamber of commerce, never took a step off the reservation in his life. He came on real sympathetic-like, but I could tell he was just itching for some tough talk, something to let him pretend for a while, relieve the boredom. So in between customers I’d talk about the old days—pure fairy tales, what he wanted to hear. No way I was going to give him anything that might come back and bite me, you know?

I’m starting to think that there might be something to this rehabilitation business. I’m staying in this boarding house and the old lady who runs the place doesn’t keep track of when I come and go or snoop in my room, on account of she’s got a sideline in the chemical trade she’d rather not get talked about. All in all I’m—what’s phrase? “Adjusting to non-institutional life.”

Then one day I’m carving up some stew meat—the secret to good stew meat? You make all the pieces the same size, so they’re all done at the same time—and she walks in.

It had been fifteen years, but I knew her before she was all the way through the door.

She’d filled out a bit, rounded the curves and softened the edges, her fiery hair had streaks of ash, and there were lines on her face that I didn’t remember being there, but, damn, she had grown up from a beautiful girl to a beautiful woman. I’d put on some weight myself, a few pounds here and there, some of it muscle but more of it beer. Ah, well, nothing lasts forever.

I watched her, my hand on the knife going through the motions on pure reflex—I was damned lucky I didn’t take my own thumb off. She walked with her basket through the sundries, picking up some bread fixings and a few spices, walking in that way that made you think about what a woman’s hips are for.

She’d glanced at me when she came in and her eyes just slid over me without sticking—new guy behind the meat counter, so what—I was just furniture in a bloody apron. Then her eyes came back to me, all by themselves, and the rest of her figured out what they were looking at and she stopped in her tracks. Those eyes—still such a bright green—got big.

“Hey, Red,” I grinned at her, “been a while.”

She shook her head, slow, and I saw her start to say something, then start to say something else, then finally settle on, “Yeah. It’s been a while.”

She started walking again, towards me.

“So, how you been?” I asked her. “You still with old what’s his name?”

“Jack,” she said, a little sharply. “Yes. We’re still married.”

I put down the knife, stripped off my gloves. “And kids? You’ve got kids, right?”

She nodded. “Yes, the twins. They’ll be thirteen in September.”

“Thirteen. Time flies, huh?” I didn’t have anything to do with my hands, so I picked up a towel and started wiping down the counter, which didn’t need it.

Another nod. She’d stopped a couple feet from the counter. Outside of arm’s reach.

“So.” I tried to think. “Jack still in the lumber business?”

“He’s a area manager now. He’s got six crews under him.” Her eyes had recovered from the surprise of seeing me, and now they weren’t giving anything away.

“Six crews, huh. Big man.”

She folded her arms. “He’s done very well for himself. And for me. And for our children.”

I raised my hands. “Hey, I mean that. I’m glad you got yourself a good man.”

She relaxed a little. “Look, I know you’ve got good reason not to like him, but …” she trailed off into a sigh. “Let’s just not have that conversation.”

I nodded and smiled. I wasn’t sure what conversation she thought we weren’t having, but I was good with it. Instead I waved to the front of the case. “So what can I get for you.”

She looked down to check out the display. “So you’re cutting meat now?”

“Learned it in Big Rock. Six years in the kitchen, and believe me, you don’t want to run into unhappy customers in the yard.”

She looked sharply back at my face then, and I felt like apologizing for bringing it up. Screw that, it was true.

She looked back down and said, “How are those hens?”

“Sweet,” I told her, “plump as judges, and every one of them died happy. They’ll roast up nice.”

“Give me two.”

I got a fresh pair of gloves and picked out the two plumpest ones, started wrapping them in crisp white paper. Even though they’d been hung to drain the blood I double-wrapped them—paper’s cheap, and it’s the little things that impress the customers.

She was checking out the rest of the case and chewing on her knuckle a little while she thought. It was a gesture I remembered from the old days.

To fill the quiet I tried a little sales talk. “We got some good sausage—we don’t make it here, the boss buys it from some outfit just outside town.”

“Golden’s, yeah, I know,” she said kind of distractedly. I guess it made sense she’d know that. She’d probably been shopping here for years. “I’ll take a pound, and oh, two pounds of ground beef.”

I got busy weighing and wrapping. I wasn’t going to say anything, because there wasn’t anything to say. Maybe make some small talk about shopping, talk her into buying pork chops, but that was all. I wasn’t going to talk about the old days. There was no point to it.

I was folding the paper around the sausages—you make real sharp creases with your fingernail, and it’ll stay closed up tight until it’s time to fry them—and it just slipped out, like the words had a mind of their own and didn’t care what I thought.

“Do you miss it?”

I looked down at my hands, still folding. I couldn’t look at her. I don’t know what she was looking at, but the quiet turned into silence.

She didn’t say, “miss what?”—we’d never been any good at lying to each other. She didn’t say, “let’s not have that conversation,” because it was pretty obvious that we were going to have that conversation, whether or not either one of us wanted to.

“Sometimes,” in a very small voice.

My hands were finished with the sausages, and I watched them building a little wax paper box for the ground beef. “I guess Jack’s… not that type.”

“He’s a good man,” even smaller.

I nodded down at my hands, then glanced over at her, quickly, careful not to see anything I shouldn’t. Her eyes were dry, and her face was serious. She looked young, almost as young as the last time I’d seen her.

“Good.” I let out a breath that I hadn’t realized I’d been holding. Louder, then. “Good, I’m glad. You deserve a good man.”

Meaning, not one like me, but neither of us said that.

Her eyes met mine and held them for a long time before she smiled. I’d spent twelve years of my life, all told, locked up in stone hotels, and I’d dreamed of that smile every night. It was good as I remembered it.

“I don’t blame you,” I said, and regretted it right away. That smiled faded away and her eyes got moist. Cursing myself I turned away to pick up her packages and slap them down on the counter.

“You want this delivered?” I asked, and then to make sure there wasn’t any misunderstanding I added, “The boss’s boy does the deliveries, you know.”

She nodded, puffed out a long breath. “Yes, please. I’m in the delivery book.”

I nodded back and we just looked at each other for a while.

I really didn’t blame her. What happened had happened a long time ago, to a couple of kids who didn’t know what they were doing. What everybody had seen, what had been in the papers, that had been the truth.

It just hadn’t been all of the truth.

I marked her name on the packages in grease pencil and had her sign the book.

She said, “I’ve got to…”

And I said, “Yeah…”

And just like that she left again.

I put her packages in the walk-in for the boss’s kid to deliver when he made the next day’s rounds. I went back to making cubes of stew meat, but the blade didn’t feel right so I took down the steel and worked on the edge for a while. The boss had some good steel, I had to give him that.

I watched my hands working on the blade for a while, the steel sweeping back and forth, and I wished I had a drink. It’d be nice to sit back in a dark room and knock back shots of whiskey, one after another, until I didn’t have to think any more.

Instead I put a good edge on my boss’s knife and went back to work. Life goes on, right?

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Meet the Authors #ReadTuesday (a Black Friday type of event just for #Books)

Originally posted on ReadTuesday:

RT-Logo-AD

MEET THE AUTHORS

Here is your chance to meet some of the authors who have already pre-registered for Read Tuesday—it’s like a Black Friday just for books on December 9, 2014. (Mark your calendar.)

This new page on the Read Tuesday website features Read Tuesday authors, including photos and brief descriptions. (This year, it isn’t a Pinterest page, although we might make one of those, too, as it looked nice last year.)

http://readtuesday.com/meet-the-authors

Want to learn more about any of the authors? Click on the link to visit the author’s site.

Authors: Please check your info. If the photo is missing, it’s probably because the link needs to end with .png or .jpeg. Leave a comment or use the Contact Us option and we can try to find a solution. If you’d like to make any changes (e.g. if the “witty” remark question didn’t come out right), let us know.

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Read Tuesday

rt-banner-240x400Well, it’s that time of year again.

The Holiday Season, which means the Retail Shopping Season.  No matter how one feels about it (I, myself, lean toward the pre-ghost Scrooge side of the scale) the fact is that in much of the world a disproportionate amount of money is spent on gifts during these two months.

This will also be the second year for Read Tuesday, which is the brainchild of Chris McMullen, independent author and promoter.

The idea behind Read Tuesday is simple.  It’s a day for independent authors to pool their resources to form a major promotion.  Chris has made signing up as an author very easy. You simply set up a promotion on whichever retailer(s) carry your books that will take place on that day, then fill out a few forms.

Then, once you are part of the promotion, you share it with your social media contacts.  There is a Thunderclap promotion that you can join to help spread the word.

I feel strongly about supporting this event, not simply as a way of promoting my own books (and yes, Catskinner’s Book is going to be on sale that week) but as a way of increasing awareness of independent and self-published books as a legitimate voice in literature.

For people who are unsure how to gift an e-book I have an article on the site that explains the process.

I strongly suggest checking out the site to anyone who  supports independent literature.  Consider helping to spread the word, whether you are able to add your own work to the promotion or not.

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My IndieGoGo Campaign for Imminent Danger is now LIVE!

MishaBurnett:

This, ladies and gentlemen, is how crowdfunding should be done. And it really is a great book.

Originally posted on Michelle Proulx -- The Website:

After two years of struggling with iUniverse, I have broken away and will be re-publishing my YA sci-fi novel, Imminent Danger And How to Fly Straight into It, with a shiny new cover. As if that’s not exciting enough, I’m also running an IndieGoGo campaign! It will be running from today until December 9th (i.e., 30 days), and if all goes well I’ll be able to start shipping some of the perks out in time for Christmas.

The purpose of the campaign is threefold:

  1. To raise funds to pay back the costs of the cover design.
  2. To increase awareness and visibility of my book. (It’s hard to buy a book if you don’t know it exists!)
  3. To provide awesome Imminent Danger themed swag for all you wonderful people.

The perks you can buy include, but are not limited to:

  • A copy of the eBook
  • A signed copy of the…

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