Tuesday, May 21, 2019

THE WOLVES OF PORT NOVO #NewRelease #Fantasy

I'm delighted to announce the re-issue of my science fantasy novel, previously released as EEL'S REVERENCE, now called THE WOLVES OF PORT NOVO. The book has been long out of print, but not forgotten by fans. I've let it rest, I've run it through a critique group that gives no quarter, and I've made some necessary adjustments, have a stunning new cover, and a far less squiggly title.

Elderly priest of Holy Sweet Micah, Aunt Libby, leaves her parish in a huff and walks into danger. Not from the tough young mercreature who robs her, not from the pragmatic waterfront restaurateur who gives her the briefest possible shelter, but from fellow priests. 

"Reaver" priests, mercenary and cynical, have driven all true priests out of Port Novo and plan to expand their power as far as possible. One old woman isn't going to stand in their way. 

Or so they think.

Available through Amazon in print and for Kindle.

I'm doing Story A Day May again this year, writing and posting a story every day on my blog. Today's story is set in the world of Port Novo, and it's about Aunt Libby as a child.

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Taking Fiction Seriously

I asked my husband, a retired English teacher, for a subject for today's post, and he complained that people today, generally, read a lot of non-fiction, but don't take fiction seriously.

Fiction, he said, can offer a distilled truth that non-fiction can't.

I find that insightful and possibly the highest strength of good fiction.

He mentioned, in particular, Dickens writing about the plight of the poor in Victorian England. The facts were available, but Dickens took his readers into the lives of the poor. When we read about Little Dorrit, Oliver Twist, or even Fagin, we experience their suffering; we see the prejudices and systemic abuses from their sides.

We can read histories of times and places and know the facts, but a rich fiction can put us there inside a participant.

As he also pointed out, fiction can also harden stereotypes and perpetuate mythologies, but I maintain that only poor fiction does that. Good fiction doesn't deal in stereotypes, but in individuals, who do things that may look stereotypical for true, personal reasons; if they don't, it isn't good fiction.

What do you think?

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Reading Your Work Aloud #amediting

The company I'm third-part owner of, Per Bastet Publications, received a submission we were eager to see. When I looked it over, I sent it back. We're still eager for it, and the author is willing to do what I asked before we accept the submission for realz, but the contract would already be signed if the excellent author had done one thing before submitting the manuscript.

Peeps, read your work aloud.

If you don't have a critique group or a critique buddy, read to the dog or the cat or to yourself, but read it aloud.

Buy my book.
Dialog should sound like people talking. Ideally, dialog should sound like different people talking. It's all too easy to write formally instead of conversationally. Hearing it aloud will make you go, "Whoa, I never actually heard anybody talk like that." And, yes, some people do or could speak formally, using no contractions, but not everybody all the time.

As I say, it's easy--so, so easy--to perfect-English your dialog to death. Reading aloud will go a long way toward teaching yourself to avoid that, if you read what you've written and not what you think you've written.

To my mind, the best way to edit a story is to have at least one run-through where you read aloud and somebody else reads along silently from a copy of the manuscript. If you left a word out of the manuscript but say it when you read aloud because your brain fills it in, your co-reader will catch that. If you meant "read" but typed "red", spell-checker won't catch that, but your co-reader probably will. If you say and meant "less" but you typed "more", your co-reader will fix that for you.

That's my two-cents'-worth on the subject. What do you think?

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, January 21, 2019

On Birthdays #amwriting #characterization

Pretty much every character was born. I leave a little wiggle room in deference to spec fic; you know how that goes.

ANYWAY, if a character was born, there are anniversaries of that event. And celebrations of events--of lack of celebrations of that event--contribute to your character's background and personality. Does your character's culture even mark birthdates? Does the culture use birthdates to group people or measure advancements through the culture?

Does your character's particular family celebrate birthdays? If so, how? Special foods or activities?

As an adult, how (if at all) does your character mark the birth anniversaries of family and friends? How (if at all) does your character mark their own birthday?

Are there special stories, gifts, or events associated with birthdays in general or a specific birthday?

If you're writing a book or story and get stuck, sometimes exploring a side/background issue like this can unstick you, whether you use the exploration in the story or book or not.

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Friday, December 21, 2018

The Beauty of Talking Story

Talking story is one of my favorite things in the whole wide world. In case you don't know what it means in the context of writing, it means talking about stories you're writing or thinking of writing, especially if you're stuck.

You usually talk story with other writers, but it can help to talk story to people who aren't writers, but are familiar with something in the story.

For example: Suppose your main character is a waitress, but you've never been a waitress. You need her to be able to share some personal information with a co-worker, but they're both waiting tables. When could they chat?

A waitress could tell you that the boss would frown on their standing around chatting, even if the restaurant isn't busy. BUT, if the restaurant isn't busy, they would be doing side-work, like filling the salt and pepper shakers OR rolling silverware up in napkins. If they're both doing the silverware, they could talk. Or if they bring the low shakers to one location to fill them, they could talk.

If you use that, you not only achieve your requirement, you add some detail to your workplace setting and increase your authenticity.

Or you need a character to do something but don't have a motive. Chew that character over with somebody else, writer or non-writer. describe the character, time, setting, interpersonal relationships. Chances are, the other person or people will see the scene as you've created it, as a place as real as a place in the actual world you've visited. They'll understand the characters as deeply as they would an actual person they don't know but you've met and described. From that construct of reality, they may be able to tell you things you couldn't see past the blinders of Being Able To Make It So.

On this turning of the season, I wish you the ability and opportunity to talk story with other writers and/or other people.

I also recommend the Speculative Fiction Guild's GIFTS OF THE MAGI anthology, a collection of speculative fiction stories set at the turning of the year, with a wide-ranging selection of celebrations. I have a story in it, but none of us get royalties: All profits go to "Indy Reads, a not-for-profit organization that provides tutoring to illiterate and semi-literate adults."

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Leaving Stuff Out

I went on a week-long writing retreat to rough draft a short story. The absolute upper limit of the submission word count is 9000 words, and my draft finished at nearly 11,000. A weeeeeee tad bit too long, eh?

So now I'm going back through and polishing and cutting.

The point of pounding out a draft during National Novel Writing Month is to just pound the thing out, to just get the story down, to get to the end. It's okay if there are repetitions; later, you decide what the best place for that information is.

So my first pass through the draft has been to trip repetitions and streamline awkward sentences. I've cut a bunch, added some, and I'm still above 9000 words.

Now comes the hard part: Now comes the part where I have to cut stuff that isn't awkward and isn't repetitious.

Luckily for me, I know where to go first.

I'm almost finished with Cixin Liu's Three Body Problem Trilogy. It's insanely satisfying: Hard science fiction plus strong, rich characters. But, although the author realizes any number of worlds and societies, the books contain no animals. No, I tell a lie, there are a couple of ants, some passing birds, and mention of a pet cat. Otherwise, humans are the only animals on earth or in space.

So I put some animals into my story.

And now I'm going to take them out.

If cutting those bits give me enough wiggle room, I might be able to stick a reference in here and there, just a tiny brushstroke suggesting much more.

Wish me luck!

And read that trilogy!

Marian Allen, Author Lady