Literary Alchemy... one podcast at a time

GUEST HOST UPDATES

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  • Making your savior behaviour look evil
    Here’s recent progress on my subtropical (art)deco mystery about a young medium in a historic spiritualist community teaming up with a shell-shocked haberdasher who’s receiving love notes from hell … as inspired by a real place and a real set of bizarre (otherworldly?) incidents:Project: BrimstoneDeadline: March 1, 2016New words written: 5853 (cumulative)Present total word count: 40,522 Things Accomplished in Fiction: Set a whole bunch of stuff on fire; finally got the message; went to brunch… ... read more
    Published on Tuesday, February 9th, 2016
  • The Genrenauts Challenge: Round One!
    Dear all, We’re just two weeks away from the release of The Absconded Ambassador: Genrenauts Episode 2!   And to help build excitement for the series, I’m kicking off a set of competitions. Before Genrenauts launched, I recorded a series of videos with the fine folks at Tor.com about the series, including some videos inviting the viewer to step into the role of Genrenauts and create endings for broken stories.   First, watch the video:… ... read more
    Published on Tuesday, February 9th, 2016
  • Interview: Nnedi Okorafor for Binti
    Binti was one of the best entries in Tor’s first wave of novellas last year. It’s a remarkable book that takes a lot of the usual conceits around first contact stories and stands them on their head. I talked to Nnedi Okorafor about Binti, her process, the themes of the novella and how her academic background influences her writing. How does your process change when writing novellas over novels? I don’t write to length.… ... read more
    Published on Tuesday, February 9th, 2016
  • A Bark Scorpion at Miss Murder’s House
    I had never seen a scorpion here until the last two years. Suddenly they’re everywhere! They’re very venomous, and I hate them.   ... read more
    Published on Monday, February 8th, 2016
  • We All Drop the Ball
    I turned in my copyedits for GEEK FEMINIST REVOLUTION last night, and a good thing, too, since the book comes out in May. I now have seven days left to finish a big revision on THE STARS ARE LEGION, because we have ARCs going to Comic-Con, apparently (ha ha) and it comes out October 1st, and we are tight on timing, here. This morning I cruised into the day job and attended our usual all-hands… ... read more
    Published on Monday, February 8th, 2016
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FOR THE WRITER…

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  • First Pages of Best-Selling Novels: The Girl on the Train
    As we’ve been seeing each week in this exploration of first pages, openings to novels carry a heavy burden. It’s the make-or-break page for the reader. Many people won’t read past the first page if it fails to engage their interest. So writers need to pay huge attention to the first page—maybe not so much at the first-draft stage, but at some point before that novel is submitted to agents or published. First pages need… ... read more
    Published on Wednesday, February 10th, 2016
  • 3 Things I Learned About Writing: Analyzing Maya Angelou’s I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS
    This reoccurring column takes the classic writing advice “good writers are good readers” and puts it to work, by looking at books across all time periods and all genres to find techniques that we can apply in our own work. This installment examines the first memoir by internationally acclaimed author Maya Angelou, I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS 1. Have a Theme “If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of… ... read more
    Published on Tuesday, February 9th, 2016
  • The Challenges of Writing Historical Fiction
    by Chris Eboch Hot trends may come and go, but for some writers and readers, nothing takes the place of great historical fiction. So in honor of Black History Month (February) and Women’s History Month (March) let’s look at this enduring genre. It can explore any period, from ancient—even prehistoric—times, to recent decades (that’s right, your childhood is now historical). The best books let readers explore a fascinating time in the past, through a… ... read more
    Published on Tuesday, February 9th, 2016
  • I vs. Me: Being Self Centered Can Be Good
    by Liz BuremanI know I talk a big game about proper grammar, punctuation, and usage around these parts. It’s pretty obvious that I have a passion for it. However, sometimes that passion becomes overzealousness and hypercorrectness, and then we end up with problems. In my experience, that excessive enthusiasm most manifests itself in the I vs. me conflict. When to Use I and Me We all know there is a difference between I and… ... read more
    Published on Tuesday, February 9th, 2016
  • On Sentence Fragments And Other Stylistic Jibber-Jabber
    I received this comment here at the blog: Dear Chuck, “Can you help me? There’s something I need to do, but I haven’t got the strength to do it.” From one Star Wars fan and student of English to another, I came here today looking for answers. Respectfully: I didn’t like what I read of your book, but I also have a serious question. This was the first book of yours I ever tried… ... read more
    Published on Tuesday, February 9th, 2016
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Thoughts and Inspirations - RTP Blog Posts

Ideas and Inspiration
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So, there I was: writing the first scene of the first draft of Hapax. I was bright-eyed and innocent, the scene zipping along beneath my fingers. My monks were preparing to hold vigil to see if the Apocalypse was nigh (spoiler: it was). I had a plot outline, I had character notes, I had worldbuilding…

And then, I realized.

I had forgotten to figure out the monks’ hierarchy. I had no idea who or what their leader was.

Oops.

Don’t Panic

Ideas and Inspiration
3

I want to take a moment to address an issue many writers, including myself, are plagued with:

So many ideas, so little time.

I’m struck with a least two new story ideas a week. Sometimes I can satisfy my fickle muses with a short story or two. Other times, the ideas demand novel-length exorcising. I can’t control it, and I’m somewhat scared of what might happen if I tried. As a result of said caution, I’ve devised a means to placate the voices in my head while maintaining my sanity. I…

Story Development
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“Descriptive” is a common compliment for books. Perhaps too common – one of the usual downfalls of newer writers is the tendency to over-describe every aspect of their stories, from the characters to the setting to the teapot in the cupboard.

Characters should be described. So should setting. That teapot, though, probably doesn’t require the readers’ attention, and you should not be wasting your authorly breath on it. Too much description, even of vital elements of the story, bogs down your narration and leads the reader to start skipping entire sections of your story – assuming, that is, they don’t simply quit reading.

How much is too much? At what point do you go from “very descriptive” to “bloated and boring?” With writing, there are never any rules – only guidelines. The following are a couple of mine.

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Workshop Episode 96 (Guest Host: Michael R. Underwood)

Michael R. Underwood – author of “The Shootout Solution” and the soon-to-be-released “The Absconded Ambassador” of the fabulous Genrenauts novella series – returns to the Big Chair at the Roundtable…

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20 (more) Minutes with Michael R. Underwood

Michael R. Underwood brings a rare combination of perspectives to any literary discourse. His insights into the industry and market of speculative fiction is informed by his experience as North American rep for Angry Robot Books. His knowledge of narrative form and structure is refined by his academic achievements. But his understanding of storytelling comes from a deep commitment and practice of the craft.

Joined by co-host Giles Hash (co-host of the Beyond the Trope podcast) we engage in (far more than) 20 minutes of writerly discourse of Michael, exploring the structure and execution of the novella, the effective utilization of tropes in storytelling, and a unique perspective on framing your writing towards a specific market. Writerly goodness is at your fingertips, friends… just click that “PLAY” button!

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One Question: What Makes a Good Fight Scene?

From intimate duels to the death to epic battles, the fight scene is a cornerstone of speculative fiction. For the writer, however, crafting a good fight scene can be an epic struggle to find…

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Workshop Episode 96 (Guest Host: Michael R. Underwood)

Michael R. Underwood – author of “The Shootout Solution” and the soon-to-be-released “The Absconded Ambassador” of the fabulous Genrenauts novella series – returns to the Big Chair at the Roundtable…