Archive for January, 2019


House Keeping 1/29/19

Hey, guess what didn’t happen over the weekend?

Anything really. It was a sleepy weekend full of nothing, I’m finding myself feeling better for having taken it, but that still leaves me a bit behind on things.

There is a fun thing though. Recently a previous guest author, Henry Quense, contacted me about a fiction writing workshop he’s written and done some videos for. It’s mainly aimed at helping kids in grades four to seven learn more about fiction writing. You can find out more here, it definitely feels worth a look see.

I do have video done for the Second Start Books box opening. I’m just going to need to figure out what I’m doing with my video editing software so that I can cut out some rough bits and a couple places where I accidentally turned the camera off. All in good fun.

Likewise with that, I’m going to have the review for the box done soon. That should be fun.

I’m a little behind on the book for review tomorrow, so that might go up a bit late. I might have to postpone it until Thursday. It is being a solid book though and once I get another chance to sit down and just read the remaining pages should fly by.

Related, I’ve got an announcement for after that review goes up. Something to look forward to there, I hope.

And, last thing, I’ve got another guest post coming up for you all on Friday.

So, yeah, standard stuff. If you like what I’m doing here and want to support my grand and glorious return feel free to leave a comment or a like. And if you really like what I’m doing here, feel free to follow or feed my caffeine addiction and buy me a ko-fi. In any case, have a great rest of the week!

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Guest Post: Robert Gryn

Here’s to returning to the internet and a nifty guest post from Robert Gryn. Not much in the way of wording just now. So, enjoy!
In a city that crosses all realities, everything is possible, and everything is complicated. A murder of two lovers seems simple, but when the man is from Above and the woman from Below it’s anything but.
Detective Lang hunts for the killer. The chase takes him from the decrepit neighborhoods of Below to the highest towers of Above. And somewhere in between, he finds himself in a game between ambition and betrayal, whose stakes are not life or death, but only his soul.
two-skies-before-night cover

The Love and Hate Framework for the People in My Head

When I first began studying fiction writing, I remember reading that you have to both love and hate the characters you create. I didn’t understand this at first. Why would you write about characters you hate? How do you show fictional characters that only exist in your head love and hate in the first place? And how can you do both? This aphorism seemed a little too simple to the younger me. But over the years I’ve come back to it time and again, using it as a framework for thinking about the treatment of characters in fiction. Inventing people with real feelings is not an easy thing, after all, and being mindful of how we can fully engage with the characters we write can make them seem more present and more true to life.

Let’s begin with examining the most obvious question: why would you write about characters you hate? I’ve come to think of this in two ways. First, and this may seem obvious, but every hero needs a villain. We are all just as fascinated by psychopaths as we are by saints and so, as writers, we must learn to write them well. There’s something intriguing about people who act against one moral code or another. Maybe we wish we could have the freedom these characters seem to have or maybe we’re just drawn to something we can’t imagine ourselves doing. Whatever the reason, we love to read about characters we hate.

Second, as writers, we have to learn to “hate” the characters we love. It’s not that we have to hate the protagonists of our stories but sometimes we have to act as if we do. It’s an easy impulse to spare our cherished protagonists “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” But without the suffering, like that of the poor prince who spoke the words above, our stories would hardly be interesting.

I like to think that the drive to see characters suffer has more to do with our capacity for empathy than from some sadistic impulse. Then again, perhaps seeing characters suffer fits into our subconscious understanding of a reality that lies somewhere past the borders of optimism. There’s a certain comfort in seeing fiction fall in line with the unfair ways we expect life to treat us. A third possibility is our innate understanding of delayed gratification. We are willing to experience the “slings and arrows” because somewhere in the back our minds we expect some sort of relief or resolution.

But stories can’t be all about the trials we put our characters through. At some point, we have to show them some love. I’ve come to think of this in two ways as well. First, and perhaps the easier of the two, we should bask in the love we show the characters for whom we genuinely care. One of my favorite things to write is a scene in which a beloved character wins out. This could be a small personal victory, something as simple as a shared smile or one-upping a bully, and is especially meaningful if the character had little chance to succeed.

There’s something affirming about the underdog beating the odds that makes me hopeful for the human spirit. As I stated above, we naturally expect the world to be unfair and look for fiction to match that reality. But we also want the characters we care about to succeed regardless of those poor odds, and when they happen to fail, we feel their fall all the more keenly. Our capacity for empathy is so deep it seems to shape the narrative structures of all our stories.

And empathy is key for us as writers. This brings me to my second point about love. In order to portray the characters we write as people and not just narrative devices, we need to show them a level of empathy we might not be comfortable with if they were real people, especially if we present them as immoral or as performing “evil” acts. This is not to say that we shouldn’t write pure villains for whom we feel nothing and disavow their choices whether explicitly or implicitly. But rather, it’s that we experience more as readers when we see things from many perspectives. It’s one thing to see the faceless monster chase the protagonist. But it can be much more interesting to see the story from the monster’s point of view. Why do they act this way? What brought them to this place where they feel they must play such an awful part? And perhaps, in the process of giving insight into the villains in our stories, we learn to enhance our own general empathy for real people.

So do I finally understand what it means to both love and hate the characters I write? To sum up, my framework for love and hate as it relates to the people I write is as follows:

To love the people I write means to be present in the moment with them, especially if I genuinely love them as characters. It also means to see what they see in the way they see it, especially if I hate them as characters. This expressed empathy is crucial not only to make stories more well-rounded but to give us broader perspectives on our world in general.

Likewise, to hate the people I write means to use their sometimes immoral natures and acts to evoke curiosity and emotion from readers, especially if I hate them as characters. It also means that however much I may love certain characters, I must expose them to the pitfalls of our imperfect and often unfair existence. I must step back far enough to show them how cruel and uncaring life is.

This is by no means a complete formula for the treatment of characters in fiction. Whether these ideas sharpen my writing and make it more interesting is up to readers to decide. What I get from this framework is a path that helps me transition from inventing characters to realizing them as people, at least as people who only live in my head.

robert-gryn author pic

Robert Gryn was born in Poland during the latter years of the communist regime. His parents recognized that the socialist experiment was doomed to fail and set out for the more hopeful shores of America. Robert spent his youth moving from one school to another, winding up in one of the worst high schools in New Jersey. After graduating, Robert spent years working odd jobs in warehouses and construction sites. Like his parents before him, Robert soon realized that the personal experiment of his own life was doomed to fail.
Determined to find a better path, Robert decided to attend Columbia University where he studied everything from Psychology to Japanese, as well as Creative Writing. Unfortunately, even graduating with highest honors didn’t put him on a path that spoke to him. He drifted again, and accidentally wound up becoming a successful technology consultant, primarily because he knew how to turn on a computer.
It was a beach vacation to St. Martin that changed his life once again. Bored with the bright sunlight and the pristine beaches he sat down to begin writing the books that had always been in the back of his mind. He soon found that he was not so much a writer but a chronicler, as if the words had drifted into his mind from all those future centuries. What could he do but tell the stories of all those people who may never exist?
Robert has written a number of novels of impossible futures and unbelievable dreams. And as long as he knows how to turn on a computer, or how to commune with the thinking machines of tomorrow, he will continue to do so.
To learn more about Robert and his books, visit www.robertgrynbooks.com
You can also find Two Skies Before Night here.

House Keeping 1/23/19

So, I’ve been gone for awhile.

Stating the obvious as an opener, which is great, but I kind of feel like I need to talk about that. Because it kind of happens like this at some point every year these past few years. This time just happens to have started around the holidays and hit hard for the start of the year. It’s kind of a getting overwhelmed and just stopping thing, kind of a depression thing, and kind of a thing of meaning to take a short pause to catch up on a specific thing and winding up a month or more behind myself. It isn’t something I ever intend to do, but once I’m behind it’s hard to pull myself back to it.

Good news is, due to hours getting cut at work, I’m going to have more time for blog stuff. Bad news is, due to hours getting cut at work, I’m going to be more ramble-y and self concerned than usual for at least a couple weeks.

On to happier things.

I’ve got a guest post coming up for you all on Friday, so that should be fun.

I’m also mostly done with the book I was planning to have as my first of the year, I’m hoping to have the review for that posted some time this weekend. Following that, I’ve got a couple of reviews I have notes on that need writing but should be good to go shortly.

Related, I’m going to give another giveaway a shot. More on that when the post goes up.

As the weekly World of Darkness posts have sort of fallen through, I’m thinking I want to try for one or two posts on it as a wrap up and a work up of the story. Then, I’m planning on trying for a weekly post on the next campaign. I’m going to be playing in that one, rather than DMing it, so I should be able to take notes and get a good write up done post session.

Plus, I was lucky enough that my folks got me a video camera for Christmas, so I can start working on video stuff. That’s probably mostly going to be videos of my roommate’s dog eating treats for a little bit, but I’m also planning on filming a box opening for this month’s Second Star Books box tomorrow night. I’m super excited to experiment with this stuff, so this should be fun.

That’s about it for this week though. I’m not promising that I’m back back, but I’m going to do my best to get things squared away so that I can have things running smoothly sooner rather than later.

But, yeah, standard stuff. If you like what I’m doing here, feel free to leave a comment or a like. Have a great rest of the week!

2018 Books I Dig

I’ve put off posting this for two days, but there weren’t any entries for the giveaway.

Unfortunate, but I might could have planned a better time for it. And it isn’t like that’s going to stop me from trying again at the end of this year, so I’m going to try and make 2019 better than 2018.

That starts with planning things out and figuring what I can do, what needs to be postponed, and how to make a schedule of some stripe work for me.

In any case, everyone have a great rest of the week! Posts will resume next week.