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Common Writer Problems

I’m still kind of wiped out from RadCon, so here’s an article from 2017 about Common Writer Problems. Some of the thing they list are:

  • I can’t remember how to start a book.
  • Typos.
  • What is character development.
  • Does anyone actually like my story???
  • What if I’m a terrible writer.
  • Tyops.
  • Is this too slow? Or too fast?
  • I don’t even know what genre this is.
  • Does my book suck, or is it just not right for that person?
  • TYPOSSSSSS.
  • Plot holes.
  • Procrastination.
  • help

But she left off an important one: I should be working on my blog!


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Snippet 3

This snippet is from the most recent book I read, How to Fracture a Fairy Tale, by Jane Yolen.

The passage really speaks to me about the nature of fantasy, and perhaps all story telling. How much is meant to be taken literally? What truths do stories hold, even without an objective basis in fact?


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RadCon 2019

Every February, I visit the Central-Washington town of Pasco for the RadCon science fiction convention. Here’s what my schedule will be for this year:

On Friday, I have one panel, Common Grammatical Errors, at 3:15. I also have a Reading at 6:15, and I will have chocolate to entice the audience. Who doesn’t like chocolate?

On Saturday, my panels are Diversity and Inclusion at 12:45 and Hard Fantasy – a New Sub-Genre at 7:00 pm. Hard Fantasy will be especially interesting, since I hadn’t even heard of this sub-genre before I got the panel assignment. If you recall, I’ve been trying to figure out my own exact genre, so this will be enlightening.

Science fiction conventions are always a great time, and this year should be no exception. The only problem? We have 2-1/2 feet of snow on the ground, and more expected. So whether we can make the drive is still to be determined. But, we are also determined, so I hope to see a few of you there at RadCon.


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First, I want to thank David and Craig for responding to my initial call for feedback on what exactly my genre is.

When I reflect on the things my stories have in common, it comes down to two concepts: family and magic. Almost every one of my books has had some kind of family issue at its heart. After all, who knows you better than family? Who can hurt you with a word, or lift you up? In Too Many Princes, the brothers Brastigan and Lottres go on a quest, but the story is really about how their relationship is threatened by conflicting goals in adulthood. In Masters of Air & Fire, a sibling group of young dragons struggles to stay together after the death of their mother.

I get a lot into the magic with my world-building. If magic was real, how would that shape society? In The Gellboar and The Seven Exalted Orders, mages are separate from other people and there are restrictions on magic for the public good. In The Magister’s Mask and The Necromancer’s Bones, magic is common and well understood. They use it for things like preserving food, where we would use refrigeration technology.

In both of these, perhaps, I do follow more closely to High Fantasy than Low. Grapping with ideas and consequences around magic is High Fantasy. Family might not be as obvious at first, but you can’t deny the importance of family drama in series like A Game of Thrones.

So maybe that’s where I land — but I’d still like to hear from more of you. And if you’ve read my books, why not take a minute to leave a review? It will really make a difference!


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The Genre Puzzle

As I work through refocusing my outreach, one puzzle is how to describe my books when people ask about genre. I try to push myself beyond easy categories and stereotypes, but here’s where it bites me in the butt.

Starting with the broadest definition, I write fantasy. That’s a no-brainer. My books are full of magic and magical creatures. From there is where it gets foggy.

There’s High Fantasy, which involves the great and powerful with their big wars and political intrigues. But there’s also Low Fantasy, which involves the small and powerless, and is often humorous in nature. In Swords and Sorcery, individual warriors struggle against malign magic and corrupt empires, while they themselves are no angels.

Then there’s Urban Fantasy, where mythical creatures/monsters interact with people in the modern world. There’s often a strong element of romantic tension. Last but not least, there are Fairy Tales. People are always re-imagining beloved fairy tales.

So where do my books fit in? I’ve written somethings in almost all of these sub-genres. Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, for example, is contains several stories in the fairy-tale style. The Gellboar is a form of Urban Fantasy. The Weight of Their Souls is Swords and Sorcery. But most of my books are much harder to pin down.

Take The Seven Exalted Orders, for example. It’s High Fantasy because it ponders political and philosophical questions like who decides how mages use their power. It’s not High Fantasy because the protagonists aren’t among the ruling elite. This would make The Seven Exalted Orders a Low Fantasy, except that it lacks broad humor. Calling my books Medium Fantasy just sounds boring.

For those of you out there who have read my books, I’d love your perspective on this question. What should I call my genre in order to attract readers who are likely to enjoy my work? High Fantasy, Low Fantasy, something else… And I’d love to hear your reasoning.


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Snippet 2

A snippet from “The Dragon Stone”

Here is my latest snippet, which happens to include one of my all-time favorite lines: “Keep screaming. These people just love the screaming.” (This line must be read with heavy sarcasm.)

The line is from my short story, “The Dragon Stone,” which is included in my collection, Aunt Ursula’s Atlas. (It’s my featured book, over there on the right.)

In this story, I was playing with the idea of a maiden tied to a rock. The villagers had accused her of witchcraft. But instead of attacking her, the dragon came to rescue her. I was also playing with the idea of an alliance between dragons and witches. (I really need to follow up on that some day.)


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Goal Tracking

My super fancy goal tracking system:
sticky notes!

My new year’s resolution this year was to improve my writing income over last year’s lack-luster performance. At right, you see the super fancy organizing system I’m using to track my priorities. That’s right, I have an array of sticky notes on the edge of the desk top. Assorted small creatures stand guard.

You can probably see that I have an annual goal, then monthly and weekly goals to support the annual. This month’s goal has been to reorganize my social media. I’m feeling good about it. When I’m critiquing work, I often tell young writers that they need to focus everything on one point (their theme, big idea, etc). Now I’m taking my own advice. By this time next week, anyone who visits my web site, Facebook author page, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram should see a unified “look.”

All these changes will necessarily extend to this very blog. You must already have noticed that the tone and focus have been different. But this is where I need your help. Yes, you! I have to decide what this blog should be about going forward, and I would love to hear your suggestions.

For seven years, I had a laser-like focus on dragons. I could switch over to another type of creature. Witches, perhaps, or Fairies? Would you rather hear about fantasy tropes and why they endure? Perhaps you prefer the general ramblings about my career and work in progress.

I need to know! Please take a moment to drop me a comment and share your ideas.


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