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Boxes of writing ideas: The Storymatic and Rory’s Story Cubes
March 14, 2015 | 11:53 am

IMG_20150314_103250On the Internet, it can be a thin line between reading and writing, especially if you take part in one of the many shared writing universes that float around. But sometimes people who want to write need sources of inspiration. That’s where writing workshopping tools come in. I already reviewed a book discussing how to use tarot cards for workshopping writing ideas, and that’s a fine thing as far as it goes. But tarot cards’ greatest strength—their rich depth of symbolism—can also be a weakness for writers new to tarot, since they might well spend more time puzzling over...

Getting back in print again – versus DIY
February 16, 2015 | 4:25 pm

Shameless plug - in even more senses than usual: My dark/erotic short story "Firmware" just came out in Issue #2 of Martian Migraine Press's Necronomicum, "the magazine of weird erotica." That's my first literary publication to appear in a while that wasn't self-published. And aside from pride - and a lot of chagrin at the various bloopers I'd missed - it also prompted some reflections on the difference in the two experiences, and how it still feels to make it into print (no pun unintended). So how come, after I painstakingly handcrafted the ebook version of my first collection of poetry,...

SWFA explains why short stories work
February 16, 2015 | 12:25 pm

Short stories as a literary form need no introduction. What's more, writers probably need no justification to continue writing them - they always have and likely always will. There are things you can do with a short story that you simply cannot do with a longer work, most of all what Edgar Allan Poe referred to in The Philosophy of Composition as unity of effect: the power to focus on a single idea, emotion, or mood to the exclusion of all else. However, two writers have just shared, courtesy of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, a series...

The six degrees of plot formulation
February 9, 2015 | 10:25 am

Stereotyping in plot construction can be the bane of the writer, but what if there were only six basic formats for all plots, and those types could be plotted? That's the contention of Matthew Jockers as part of his ongoing research into "the relationship between sentiment and plot shape in fiction," via "an R package titled 'syuzhet' ... designed to extract sentiment and plot information from prose." Inspired partly by some remarks by Kurt Vonnegut, Jockers "set out to develop a systematic way of extracting plot arcs from fiction. I felt this might help me to better understand and visualize how narrative...

The grave of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
February 5, 2015 | 12:27 pm

IMG_20150203_154239 Ironically for one of Edinburgh's favorite sons, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle lies buried in the churchyard of All Saints' Church, Minstead, in Hampshire's New Forest - almost as far due south from Edinburgh as it's possible to be while still on the English mainland. However, Minstead does appear prominently in his writing, and there's a tale attached to his final resting place too. Minstead figures heavily in Conan Doyle's historical novel of England during the Hundred Years War, The White Company, where the hero, Alleyne Edricson, ends the tale as socman (landlord) of Minstead. Conan Doyle had discovered the place while researching...

SFWA announces membership qualifications for self-published and small press writers
February 3, 2015 | 9:10 pm

The Science Fiction Writers of America, or SFWA, has finally come through with its long-promised support for self-published and small press authors. A SFWA press release declares that complete details will be posted to the SFWA’s membership requirements page by March 1, 2015. (I have been informed that SFWA’s members refer to it as SFWA, sometimes pronounced “siff-wah,” rather than the SFWA, so I shall do so within this article.) The press release states that the requirements for Active Membership are having earned at least $3,000 via novel (it’s unclear whether that’s from one or several such novels over...

Harper Lee to publish sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird after 55 years
February 3, 2015 | 7:53 pm

For fifty-five years, To Kill a Mockingbird has been the only novel that Harper Lee published. It was successful enough that she simply didn’t need to publish another one. That one book, published 55 years ago, has kept her comfortable for the rest of her life. But it turns out that To Kill a Mockingbird was actually the second novel that Harper Lee wrote—and now HarperCollins is going to publish the first one, Go Set a Watchman. It is scheduled for release July 2015. Lee explains that when she first wrote Go Set a Watchman, her editor was intrigued...

Royal Literary Fund launches Writers Aloud podcast, blog
January 27, 2015 | 2:25 pm

The Royal Literary Fund, the UK charity set up to provide grants and pensions to writers either in financial distress or invalid, has launched a new podcast series and blog series, Writers Aloud, to publicize its work and the contribution of writers in general to the UK. On Twitter as @rlfwriters, the RLF counted down "to the launch of our extraordinary Podcast series, Writers Aloud. You're going to *love* it." The Writers Aloud project also gives the RLF the chance to fulfil its mission by paying writers to write, or at least broadcast about writing. "We give help to writers in many...

Robert E. Howard’s legacy: A little comparison of “popular” versus “serious”
January 23, 2015 | 12:25 pm

In honor of Robert E. Howard's birthday, here's a little demonstration and an attempt at a quantification of what his legacy as a popular/pulp/genre/trash writer means. And an object lesson in how many people you can reach, how many dreams you can touch - and how much wealth creation you can enable - by sipping at the poison chalice of popularity. Let's take two writers born roughly the same time, one "popular," one "serious," and their most successful single property. I'm going to focus on one Howard creation only: Conan. (Never mind the Solomon Kane movie and other offshoots.) And in...

Trying too painfully, achingly hard to write The Great American Novel
January 22, 2015 | 12:25 pm

A recent post in the New York Times fingered the Stateside obsession with the Great American Novel, that white elephant that has crushed many literary aspirations and engendered all kinds of weird mutants that sprawl around the landscape. Indeed, there have been whole books written about the Great American Novel, as well as novels titled, modestly, The Great American Novel. In the NYT, however, Cheryl Strayed concluded that "the idea that only one person can produce a novel that speaks truth about the disparate American whole is pure hogwash." And Adam Kirsch declares that "The GAN, to use the acronym...

Happy birthday, Robert E. Howard, the Cross Plains barbarian
January 22, 2015 | 10:25 am

Genre-spanning "pulp fiction" author Robert Ervin Howard was born this day, January 22nd, in 1906 in Peaster, Texas, moving in his adolescence to Cross Plains, where he lived until his suicide on June 11th, 1936, following his mother's death. In those 30 years, he produced an immense amount of pulp fiction, practically defined at least one genre - sword and sorcery - and contributed masterpieces to several others. The Robert E. Howard legend is now imposing enough to rival even his hero Conan, and has spawned numerous books and at least one film in its own right, multiple-award-winning The Whole...

H.P. Lovecraft craft beer: Can there be any better tribute?
January 21, 2015 | 4:25 pm

Can fame ever taste any sweeter than when it comes in the form of honey ale? That's the delicious prospect offered by Rhode Island's Narragansett Beer, which aims to put the "craft" in Providence's favorite son, H.P. Lovecraft, with its Lovecraft Honey Ale. According to the brewery, there's quite a pedigree, and quite a basis, to the brew. Lovecraft was "born in 1890, the same year that Narragansett Beer was founded." And "the Lovecraft Honey Ale was inspired by the Space Mead consumed by winged Byakhee as protection from “interstellar space travel” in Lovecraft’s 'The Festival'." Actually, as a dedicated scholar of...

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