Yeah, I’ve been reading a lot. I’m still on my quest to read a bunch of romance so I can figure out what makes the genre tick, and I keep stumbling on this trope that I’m coming to really hate.

The first quarter of this book I read last week, I absolutely loved it. The characters were great, I really liked them, the situation was intriguing. And then they did That Thing.

Every romance has an obstacle. The couple discovers each other, falls in love, then something keeps them apart for a big chunk of the book and we keep reading to see how they get back together.

In too many cases, the obstacle is the characters being stubborn and obtuse.

After a steamy fling, each character decides that the other character doesn’t really love them after all. They harden themselves in response. Thereby further convincing the other that they don’t really love them after all.  This is a natural mistake, a thing that happens. But then every single bit of dialog between them following this is constructed to ensure that neither of them gives any indication that they actually really do love each other. It becomes contrived, repetitive, and torturous.  Like, if they would just actually talk to each other like normal people and have an adult conversation they could figure it out. But they never do. At least, until they do for the purpose of the plot.

In this case, this contrived, repetitive situation between unpleasantly stubborn characters went on for 100 pages. What had started delightful became excruciating. I almost didn’t finish.

When I get around to writing my romance, the obstacle will be external. Something will land in their lives that makes it difficult for them to stay together. Travel, duty, other obligations, other conflicts. Something. I don’t know. I just can’t imagine writing a hundred of pages of dialog where two characters withhold information for no other reason than that the plot demands it.

 

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Birding Without Borders

November 1, 2018

On my trip last weekend I read Birding Without Borders by Noah Strycker, about his epic 2015 trip to spot half the world’s bird species in one year. A Big Year with no national limits. He spotted 6,042 of around 10,000+ bird species.  He worked really, really hard for this. And the record was broken the following year, believe it or not.

(For comparison, my own life list is edging toward 300. Total. I think.)

The book is a fun, fast, kind of jaw-dropping read when you consider how Strycker managed it, basically never stopping, always on the move, and reaching out to local birders at every single stop to help him to his goal.

It was inspiring not in the sense that I now want to go out and do some kind of epic Big Year of my own. On the contrary, I think I would rather find one really nice spot, sit there with a spotting scope, and sip a glass of wine while waiting to see what comes along. But, you know, I should try for a different nice spot every few months or so. I would like to bird in Costa Rica or Ecuador at some point. Strycker spent a lot of time in the tropics, which have the greatest concentration of biodiversity and bird species. Entire families of birds I’ve never encountered. Antpittas? Flowerpeckers? Yeah, I’d need some prep work to get ready for that birding trip.

The book was inspiring in giving me some ideas of how to up my own birding game on a smaller scale. Like, you know, prepping by learning the area’s birds before I get there. Also, using eBird.org not just to report sightings, but to plan trips. I’m already using eBird to report, but I hadn’t really thought about using it to plan until reading about how the site was essential for Strycker.

I’ve already started on this. I’ve got a couple of trips coming up, and I’m going to bring my travel binoculars and scout out some of the nearby hotspots listed on eBird, which will also give me a good idea of what I’ll find when I get there.

This is cool. I’m excited. I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

never stop learning

October 30, 2018

I’m currently reading Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. This will probably strike some people as funny or ironic or something. I’m twenty-two published novels into my career, right?  My first novel was a breakout novel.  (In fact, Maass talks about the Kitty series in one of his other books on writing, The Fire in Fiction.) Surely I’ve got this covered, right?

The current thing I’m working on is different from anything I’ve ever written. I’m on a third draft and it’s not there yet.  So I’m hitting the books, getting back to basics. Trying to figure out what I’m missing, what I need to focus on.

And it’s humbling, because in this book Maass explicitly talks about how his audience isn’t necessarily new writers, but mid-career writers who’ve maybe hit a wall.

Um. Yeah.

The good news is I’ve got a couple of pages of notes now about what I need to work on. I’ve identified the primary conflict as a three-way tug-of-war between three characters. I’ve identified one of those characters as an actual character and not as the distant nebulous thing she was before (fantasy writing, sometimes characters don’t look like characters), and determined there aren’t actually subplots — just consequences of the one main plot.

Now I just have to, you know. Do the thing.  My usual tricks weren’t working, gotta learn something new. “Never stop learning” is a really good lesson.

*rolls up sleeves*

 

Wizarding Weekend

October 25, 2018

Reminder:  I’ll be in Ithaca, NY this weekend for the Wizarding Weekend, a themed holiday festival that sounds like a lot of fun. I’ll be signing books and I have a Q&A session and maybe a couple of other things once the schedule is finalized.  Check it out, I’m headed east of the Mississippi!

 

Monday update

October 23, 2018

I know, it’s not Monday, but I meant to post something yesterday and things got away from me.

Actually, I sat down and wrote a 2700 short story, whole and complete, in almost one sitting (I took a break to go to yoga class). I haven’t done that in years. I’ve never done it the day after a convention. The idea has been noodling in my head for months, but I woke up with exactly the right opening for it, and it just kept going. It’s amazing. And it’s not finished. I think it needs another draft, some fleshing out. I’m going to let it sit for a bit and then figure it out.

Speaking of MileHi Con — mass chaos! It was great, and a whirlwind, with a lot going on. They did something really ambitious for their 50th anniversary:  invited back all previous Guests of Honor. I think 24 of them came. Including me. I was Toastmaster in 2008, Special Guest in 2018…so I’ll have to suggest they invite me back for something in 2028, yes?

Onward…

 

First Man

October 19, 2018

Just a quick review. Once again, I’m covering this one in Lightspeed and will have a deeper analysis of the movie and its place in the genre of “Historical Dramas about NASA.”  But I know a bunch of you probably interested in it so I wanted to say something.

I liked it, I’m glad I saw it, but I felt it lost focus. On the one hand it’s this intensely personal portrait of Neil Armstrong through the 1960’s, his run-up to the Apollo 11 mission, and his place in history as the first person to set foot on ground that isn’t Earth. When the movie really got into his point of view, right there in the Gemini 8 capsule and the X-15 cockpit, it was great, and some of these set pieces are spectacular. It showed me things I hadn’t seen before. The lunar landing is presented as a work of art, and it’s gorgeous, and I really loved the idea of showing us this one man coming to grips with the enormity of it all beyond the historical context.

On the other hand, when the movie was trying to do the big epic sweep, I thought it got derivative, showing us what every other movie and documentary of the type has always shown. The Right Stuff lite, if you will. It also made the movie feel long.

I think I might have liked it a little better if it wasn’t trying to have it both ways.  Still, if you’re a super space nerd, you gotta see if for those mission sequences.

 

Just a reminder that I have a couple of events coming up:

An Author Panel titled “Bringing the Weird and Dead to Life” at Front Range Community College in Westminster, October 18, 6 – 7:30 pm.

And then, Friday to Sunday, the ever-popular MileHi Con. It’s the 50th Anniversary and it’s going to be a huge party I think.

We’re holding a launch party in the Con Suite on Sunday, 11 am, for the limited edition of “Paranormal Bromance.”  Click the link for ordering info!

I’m in full chaos mode getting ready for all this. Onward ho!