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Messages - ClintACK

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Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: Whichbook
« on: May 30, 2015, 02:27:15 PM »
Definitely a small database.  Especially in genre.

Character: Race: Non-human
Plot: Success against the odds
Setting: Imaginary

Produced zero results.

Just non-human in an imaginary setting pulled up only six results.

If you look at the stats on this forum it seems that it's ten males for every one female on here
Do you think female fantasy/sci-fi readers read various other genres and male fantasy readers don't branch out as much ?

Or possibly Women are less inclined to join and post on forums compared to men. I think ( in the first world) if you look at those who read for enjoyment there will be more women than men. Less women into SCFI and more into fantasy at a guess but ignoring genre more women read.

Possibly women prefer live writing groups over internet forums?  Or are less likely to notice the tiny little "forum" button on the main web site here?  I'd been reading the occasional article on this site for almost a year before I realized there was a forum -- and I only realized that because of the "Writing Contest" articles on the main site.

Glancing at Amazon's top-selling fantasy authors, six of the top ten are women at the moment.   The top woman is Diana Gabaldon, whose Outlander series is recently out as a TV series.  Two of the others look to be paranormal romance, from the covers.  And women come in at #12, #13, #16, and #18 with hunky shirtless werewolves, werebears, and vampires on the covers...  (And Brandon Sanderson as the only man in the #11-#20 range.)  So... 15 of the top 20 fantasy authors on Amazon right now are women.

Basically, my theory is men are still reading war stories and westerns, women are still reading romance, young adults are still reading coming-of-age and parents-just-don't-understand stories, and everyone still reads mysteries and crime.  Fantasy is largely just how some of the stories are dressed up.

See, for example, how easily the Shades of Grey author turned it from a paranormal romance into a non-magical romance novel when she realized how popular it was going to be.  The Twilight/vampire aspects weren't essential to the book, they were just how it was dressed up.

"Completed series" and you're hooked on Game of Thrones.  I feel your pain.

Completed makes me think older stuff.  I assume you already know Lord of the Rings.  :)

David Eddings' Belgariad is completely different, and complete at 5 books.  I loved it when I was younger.

Patricia McKillip's Riddle-Master trilogy is another that I loved, but haven't read in years.

Robin Hobb's Farseer Trilogy -- royal bastard orphan raised to be an assassin with a secret magic

Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain is excellent, but YAish and the books are shorter than you specify.

Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber -- loved them way back when, not sure how well they've aged

Michael Moorcock's Elric Saga is a classic, but I liked his Corum books (Swords trilogy and then a second trilogy, the Chronicles of Corum) even better when I was younger.  They're very, very different than the fantasy being written today.  And they're finally out in electronic versions, literally this month.  I haven't reread them yet, so no idea how well they've aged.

Writers' Corner / Re: How much did you write today?
« on: May 30, 2015, 12:45:26 PM »
Wow.  6000, 9000?  I need to get cracking.  Or I else I need to figure out how to give myself credit for revising and editing.

But: Milestone

I hit 100k words in my current projects yesterday.  (59,729 words in works with at least a complete first draft, 42,834 in partials)

Now, just 900k more, and I'll be competent.   :-\

Writers' Corner / Re: Personal spelling habits
« on: May 30, 2015, 12:03:29 PM »
I wonder whether gendered nouns influence how shamanistic animists see or think about the spirits of the things around them.

"No, no, 'river' is a masculine noun.  So clearly, the river spirit can't have given birth to the smooth stones of the river bed."

"But that's not a river, it's a stream.  And 'stream' is a feminine noun."

"No, it's definitely a river the whole way up to the falls there, but wait 'waterfall' is feminine.  Perhaps the masculine 'cliff' and feminine 'waterfall' are together the parents of the smooth river stones?"

"Are you sure that's a 'cliff'?  I would have called it more of a 'bluff'(f)."

"Can't be.  Then who would be the father of the river stones?"

Writers' Corner / Re: Personal spelling habits
« on: May 30, 2015, 02:55:17 AM »
The thing that has always thrown me about European languages is the three different words for 'the' depending on the gender of the object, male, female or neuter. How exactly did they arrive at the conclusion that a specific object is masculine, feminine or neutral?

Particularly in German.  "Girl" is neuter.  (Das Madchen)

Up to 12 submissions as this morning. Which means only 2 votes allowed!   :o
We'd need 16 to be allowed 3 votes.
Anyone else planning to submit? Would love to keep our 15+ streak going!


Wait, I thought it was 3 votes for 11-15, and 4 at 16+??

(I'm still hoping for the (apparently usual) last-minute rush of submissions though.)

Writers' Corner / Re: Personal spelling habits
« on: May 28, 2015, 08:14:30 PM »
It's flawed, but it's still the most popular and it IS highlighting a problem of the language.
Yeah, would be nice if they could come up with one that highlights the flaw but stays within the rules though!  :P

Bough, Cough, Dough, Rough, Through, and Hiccough.

No two of these rhyme.  The last one hilariously so.

Re: French...

The thing about French that always makes me laugh is that it's a language with a whole set of conjugation and declension endings, none of which are ever spoken aloud.  That just seems nutty. 

Re: Personal spelling habits...

I'm fond of "rooves" as the plural of roof, though I know of no dictionary that agrees with me.

And this week my word processor told me that "cartoonishly" and "startlement" are not real words.  ("Her walk was cartoonishly exaggerated, but certainly eye-catching.")  ("An indrawn breath, not startlement but wonder.")

At the end of the day, a word is a tool to move an idea from one brain into another.  If it does that, it doesn't matter whether it appears in anyone's dictionary.  And spelling is only a problem if it makes the reader pop out of the story.

Writers' Corner / Re: How much did you write today?
« on: May 28, 2015, 01:04:01 AM »

Woo!  5188 words today and yesterday, The Faun and the Miller’s Daughter (or maybe Old Man River and the Willow Woman).  Reading all the Fairy Tale submissions yesterday inspired me to write another, more classic fairy tale, and I'm really pleased with how it came out.  (Of course I always am when I'm done.  I'll come back to it in a week or two and see all kinds of things wrong.)

YEEEEESS!! So pleased with myself! I went back to my short story in progress and cut down quite a few words, ye managed to then extend the story by almost 300 words.
Doesn't sound that impressive, but it's passages I had no ideas how to write so I'm pretty smug.

That's awesome.  Cutting well is important.  And I love that feeling when a hard passage suddenly comes clear.

Here we go.  1494 words (or 1496 with the title: "Fairy Godmother").

I was worried when the first draft came out over 2400 words, but I had a crazy 600 word scene that was easily replaced with 50.  The last fifty words of cutting were painful, but I think I only cut out one major plot point, and I caught myself and put it back.

It's not *precisely* a fairy tale, but it has fairies in it, and the moral isn't explicitly stated, but it's there if you look for it.

Spoiler for "Fairy Godmother":
Fairy Godmother

“Tag, you’re it,” said Saffron, the Princess of Dandelions.

“Nah uh, you missed me,” said Aubrey Cartwright, her new human friend.

“Look,” Saffron said, “I got powdered sugar on your dress.  Sorry.”

“Did not,” Aubrey persisted.  “That’s ashes.  A wicked witch made me scrub the fireplace in my ball gown.  She wanted to get me in trouble, but I was really careful and didn’t get any on my dress.  Um, except this little bit.”

Saffron took a moment to understand. Aubrey was telling her a ‘story’. Saffron clapped her hands and laughed, spinning in circles.  Humans were so much fun with their wild imaginations.

Voices out in the hall.

“Hide,” Aubrey said.  “We aren’t supposed to be in this part of the palace.  We’ll get in trouble.”  Saffron was fascinated by the idea of making people believe things that weren’t so, and thought hiding was one of the silliest, zaniest, most fun games she’d ever played.

They hid behind the curtains and Aubrey’s mother and Saffron’s uncle didn’t see them when they came in giggling and touching on their way to a spare bedroom.

The girls snuck out and then Aubrey poked Saffron, crying, “You’re it,” and they were off and running.

They ran straight into Aubrey’s father, still laughing and squealing.  Aubrey ran around her father, keeping away from Saffron’s sticky hands.

“Where did you two run off to,” he glowered down at them. 

“Nowhere,” Aubrey declared, and Saffron giggled.

“Hmph,” her father dismissed that.  “Have you seen your mother?  She seems to have wandered off to nowhere as well.”

“No, Father,” Aubrey said with an innocent voice, making Saffron giggle again.

Mr. Cartwright frowned and asked Saffron directly.

“Have you seen her?”

“Yes, Sir,” Saffron said.  “In the Forsythia Suite with my uncle.”  She lost interest in conversation and went looking for more powdered sugar cookies.

Mr. Cartwright found Mrs. Cartwright shortly thereafter, playing games with Saffron’s uncle that he preferred she play with him.  For some reason this made him angry.  He shouted, she screamed, and together they made quite a scene.  Later that evening, Mrs. Cartwright threw herself from a balcony and died.

Perhaps this made sense to the human guests.  The Faerie Court was completely mystified, especially Saffron.

“I hate you,” Aubrey said.

“Why?” Saffron asked.

“You killed my Mom.”

A lifetime of only hearing the truth spoken aloud had ill prepared Saffron for this moment.

“Oh, Aubrey,” she said, blinking back tears.  “I’m so sorry.  What did I do?  What can I do? I’ll make it better somehow, you’ll see, I promise.”

Shocked silence filled the ballroom.  The Dowager Duchess of Daffodils with centuries of dignity and preternatural grace dropped her champagne glass to the granite floor. 

The next day, Saffron’s great Aunt Polly met with Aubrey’s uncle.  Saffron tried not to fidget while they spoke as if she weren’t there and decided her fate.  What was she going to do?  A fairy cannot tell a lie // She must fulfill her oath or die.

“Take Saffron into the Cartwright house,” Aunt Polly said.  “Give her the chance to help heal the rift in young Aubrey’s heart, and perhaps the rift between our peoples will follow.” 

“So be it,” Sir Robert said. “I will speak to my brother.”

“Girl,” Aubrey called.  “The hearth is filthy.  Scrub it out.”  In a fortnight, they had gone from “Saffron, could you brush my hair?” to this.

Saffron sighed.  Her dress was ruined anyway.  She fetched a bucket and brush, trying to recall the delight she had felt at Aubrey’s story the night of the ball. She removed all the ironwork and set to scrubbing the stones.  The stone was hard on her knees and physical labor was unfamiliar.


“Yes, Aubrey?”

“Ma’am.  Servants call me ‘Ma’am’.”

“I’m not a servant, Aubrey.  I’m your friend.”

“Oh, then what are you doing in my fireplace.”

Saffron stopped scrubbing.

“I’m helping a grieving friend.  If scrubbing out your fireplace can make things better for you, even a little, I’ll do it.”

“I had a friend once.  She betrayed me and killed my mother.  How could anything ever make that better, even a little?”

Years passed, as they are wont to do.  Aubrey grew older while Saffron didn’t, or perhaps Saffron grew up while Aubrey didn’t.  Either way, young men began to come courting.  Aubrey married one, and Saffron tossed white rose petals in the procession.

Married life and motherhood agreed with Aubrey.  Aubrey Talbot was a happier woman than Aubrey Cartwright had been.  But it still hurt Aubrey to see her, so Saffron kept her distance, even though it gave her little hope of ever redeeming her vow. 

“Auntie Saffron,” Petunia called.  Saffron was not her aunt, but she’d been around humans for so long she found the lie endearing.

“Yes, child?”

“How do I look?”  Petunia was nearly the same age her mother had been years ago at that fateful ball.

“That’s a lovely gown, but riding boots are an unconventional choice and your hair is a mess,” Saffron said.

Petunia pouted.  “Mamma says if you don’t have anything nice to say, you shouldn’t oughtta say anything at all.”

“Hmm.”  Saffron took Petunia by the shoulders and guided her over to the standing mirror.  “What do you see?”

Petunia tried to keep pouting, but broke down and giggled.

“Now tell me, if I could make this a magic mirror that would always show you flawless and perfect, would you want me to?  What if you had chocolate smeared on your face or spinach between your teeth?  Would you want the mirror to lie to you and let you go out in public that way?”

“But I like to look pretty.  Can you really make a magic mirror?”

“Oh, child, I wouldn’t even if I could.  It is our flaws make us beautiful.  Today you are lovely in the innocence of youth.  Magnificent in the guileless freedom of your riding boots and gown.  And thanks to the honesty of your mirror, we can fix the hair.”

Petunia giggled and let Auntie Saffron brush her hair.

At Petunia’s wedding, Saffron looked barely fifteen, too young to be a maid of honor. But Petunia insisted, and it was her day.

“How do I look, Auntie Saffron,” Petunia asked in her wedding gown, striking a pose just like when she was a little girl.

“You are lovely, dear Petunia.  You are radiant with joy, the dress is quite stylish and suits your shape well, and your hair is magnificent.”

And Petunia knew every word was true, because her Auntie Saffron never lied.

Years passed. Aubrey grew older still.  Her ankles swelled, and the doctor wanted her to get a cane.  Instead, she leaned on Saffron.  They went walking every afternoon in a courtyard filled with yellow dandelions.

“I’m old,” Aubrey said. “I feel old, but I look at you and I’m a little girl again, hiding behind that curtain.  We shouldn’t have been in that part of the palace.  We killed her.  I will carry the burden of that always.”

Once, Saffron had had no answer for this, but she was no longer a child, and she had lived a lifetime among humans.

“We were just children, Aubrey.  You didn’t kill your mother.  She chose to sneak away with my uncle, and she chose to jump from a balcony rather than beg your father’s forgiveness.  Her choices, not yours.”

They sat together on a bench in the garden.  Aubrey cried and Saffron patted her back.

“It’s not enough,” she said. 

“I know,” Saffron said. “If you don’t forgive me, I will die when you do.”

“I know,” Aubrey said.  “Do you want me to lie?”

“I don’t know,” Saffron said, shocking herself.

Within the year, Aubrey took to her sickbed.  Petunia came to be with her at the end.

Saffron paused in the hallway, not wanting to intrude.

“You don’t know what you’re asking,” Aubrey said.

“I will soon, mother.  I’m about to lose you.  Don’t take my Auntie Saffron from me too.”

Petunia and Saffron took turns sitting by her bedside.

“Saffron,” Aubrey said.  It was the first time she’d called her by name in many years.  “I see it now.  You have made it better, just a little.”

“A kind lie, Aubrey.”  She gently held her friend’s hand.  It was kind, but a lie wasn’t enough.

“No, Saffron.  Not better for me, perhaps, but for Petunia.  She lost her grandmother even before she was born, but you’ve been like a godmother to her, a substitute.  You’ve helped to make her the strong, beautiful woman she is today.  I love her every bit as much as I loved my mother, and she is better because of you.  I see that now, just like you promised I would.”

Petunia never stopped calling her Auntie Saffron, but her children and her children’s children called her their Fairy Godmother.  And she did her very best to be just that.

Wow.  Great stories.  Great twists.

I read all the entries.  Went back and read the ones I liked again.  Picked two winners, then struggled to narrow down one more.  Had my three.  Went to vote.  Realized I could pick four.  :)

And, now I have to go edit my May submission one more time.  (First draft was 2400 words.)

For me, the biggest "watch out for" in 3rd-omniscient is making sure your character is sympathetic.

1st-person and a really tight 3rd-limited both put you right in the PoV character's head.  You literally see only what comes to his attention and see it first through the filter of how he thinks and feels about it.  This gives the author a huge leg up making the character sympathetic, making you root for them.

(My understanding is this is where tight 3rd-limited came from -- the desire to combine 1st-person immersion with multiple PoVs.  Dracula was an earlier attempt to get this, told in multiple-PoV 1st-person, which has some obvious pitfalls.)

In 3rd-omniscient you need to pay a bit more attention to making your reader care about the main character.

Consider Harry Potter -- right off the bat he's an orphan and horribly mistreated by the Dursleys, which is sure to generate sympathy.  And the mistreatment really comes across because we're in 3rd-omni.  If he were directly telling you about the mistreatment in 1st-person, he'd come across as whiney rather than stoic.  You could rescue that by having him only admit to bits of the abuse that become relevant for other reasons, and then immediately downplay it, but that's a bit sophisticated for the targeted age group.

I'm a big Jim Butcher fan, but if you're not looking for detective stories, Harry Dresden's not for you.

So, modern-world supernatural tales that aren't detective stories or paranormal romance.

A few other supernatural tales set in our modern world:

1. Charles Stross's Laundry Files are a very different take on Urban Fantasy.  It's somewhat IT-support-guy-saves-the-world in a London where a secret government agency protects the world from incomprehensible horrors from beyond reality that are summoned by proving certain obscure mathematical theorems.  It's a bit of Dilbert-meets-Bond-meets-Lovecraft.

Highlight: the combination of dry British humor with nerdy-linux-mathlete humor

Example: In passing, at one point, a character tries to prove you *can* make an omelet without breaking the egg.  To do this, he infuses iron particles through the shell, imposes a rotating magnetic field to scramble the egg internally, then microwaves the egg.

First book: The Atrocity Archive. (usually bundled with The Concrete Jungle as a single book)
(#2 is a bit weaker in my opinion, but #3 and #4 are excellent, and there are a number of novellas and short stories in this series as well.  If you make it to #5: Rhesus Chart, it's got vampires.)

2. Harry Connolly's Twenty Palaces series take an ex-con trying to go straight and throws him into a world of literally incomprehensible alien menaces from outside reality and the take-no-prisoners destroy-the-village-to-save-it types who violently suppress outbreaks.  Each book has one or more entirely new bizarre monsters and magics.  (Example: Kids are bursting into flame, turning into a bunch of flaming worms that burrow into the ground and head away.  Moments later, everyone (except the protagonists who have warding tattoos) completely forgets that the kid ever existed.)

Highlight: Really well done mind-bending magic and monsters that we've never seen before, are well thought out, and truly alien.

First book: Child of Fire

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