Friday, April 29, 2011

Chronicles of Humanity: Descent and Friday teasers

Last night I watched all 8 episodes of a new science fiction webseries made with Moviestorm. Damien Valentine is writer (with Kim Genly), director and editor. Said Damien, "Every frame of every scene was created using just one computer thanks to Moviestorm..." Episode one was released Tuesday (April 26th). It even had a big screen showing in the UK.

The story opens in the 24th century with an "accident" on a Titan mining colony. The only survivor happens to be a reporter, which seemed contrived until I saw the episode explaining how she happened to be that far from the blast. She suspects the government is behind the explosion that devastated the colony and mining facility. She ends up on a freighter with a couple, Adam (Charlie Allen-Wall) and Ravyn (Gabrielle Pugliese) that want to help her after her traumatic experience.

Meanwhile, Admiral Yasuko (Kim Genly) lays her evil plots using the unsuspecting Capt. Heyman and her black ops agent/assassin.

I don't know what the limitations are with Moviestorm, but for a DIY (do-it-yourself) animated movie, it's not bad. The storyline and script held my attention. Some of the voice actors gave performances that would be nearly flawless if I closed my eyes. The mouth animation and stilted movements were a little distracting. Worst of these was an embrace that came out of nowhere and seemed to miss. I mean their arms didn't connect right. And it didn't fit right with the dialog.

Richard Grove (Captain Heyman) delivered his dialog with authority, character and a natural flow, as did Ingrid Moon (Commander Fulmer). Authority and being comfortable in that captain's chair is important. Need I mention Scott Bakula as Captain Archer of the Enterprise? I actually joined a Star Trek message board just so I could post "Archer must die!" Captain Heyman, on the other hand, I could listen to all day and hang on his every order.

And Commander Fulmer had just the right amount of spunk. Her personality added spice to the bridge.

Katherine McDonald needed more action scenes. I wanted to see her actively investigating and snooping, not just hearing about it afterward.

I encourage you to check it out. If nothing else, it will inspire you to do great things with one computer yourself.


GeekChicDaily LA launched today. It's an e-newsletter to keep geeks in LA informed of the latest local science fiction haps, including "film festivals, gallery openings, comic/anime/manga conventions, gaming tournaments and signings, as well as profiles of local artists and personalities."

A little bird told me there are more steampunk Pinkerton episodes on the way. Stay tuned for more about The Pinkerton Files. Meanwhile, you can read my review of the first episodes here (You'll find a Falling Skies trailer there, too.).

Also, I'm dying for some more Minister of Chance. I'm thinking that if more people buy the first episode, they'll release the episode two sooner. Money talks, right? Check out Minister of Chance for your own entertainment and so I can get my MOC fix! Read my review.

TNT sent me a press kit that included the first two episodes of its new science fiction series,Falling Skies, and a cool cotton, drab olive shoulder bag. I'm thinkin' it could easily double as Browncoat (Firefly) gear. You'll see a review of the series complete with an interview with Connor Jessup very soon. Falling Skies premieres on June 19th and stars Noah Wyle. It's a DreamWorks Television production with executive producer, Steven Spielberg.


Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Immortals. Happy Friday and enjoy the trailers!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Time Enough at Last - apocalyptic views

First, my good news! My tongue-in-cheek space opera, Awesome Lavratt, is now available for Kindle! You can read the first chapter on my website. Then, once you're hooked on the adventures of Horace Whistlestop and the evil Aranna Navna, you can scoot on over to Amazon and download it. I'm working on the another tale in that universe now which will reprise many of those characters. It's also available as an app for Android and iPhone/iPad.

I've been reading apocalyptical books one right after another. I picked up Soft Apocalypse from the Night Shades table at FOGcon -playing my reviewer card, of course. Jeremy Lassen, Editor in Chief, said he's the author to watch. He told no lies! You'll be seeing a review and possibly an interview with author Will McIntosh in May.

Penguin had sent me Daybreak Zero by John Barnes. I had just finished my just-for-fun historical fiction novel and it looked interesting. And why not stay with the whole apocalyptic theme? I was half-way through when I read on the one-sheet that the first Daybreak book (Daybreak Zero is the second) was just released in paperback. I asked for that, too, since I was reading Daybreak Zero. But alas, I'm reading them out of order because Daybreak Zero was so good I couldn't put it down to wait for and read Directive 51.

Soft Apocalypse gives the personal, close-up view of a deterioration of society from a convergence of many devastating events while Daybreak Zero looks at an apocalypse from a single, yet unknown, source from an ensemble cast that ranges across the former United States.

The historical fiction book, The Seekers by John Jakes, is set in the new US of the early 19th century. It made for some interesting parallels. I have no romantic notions about the past. Having our washer out of commission for a month (in spite of two previous visits by repairmen) was enough deprivation, thank you. I like my modern conveniences. No matter how tired or sick I am, I can still feed my machines and have clean dishes and clothes. A vacuum bot would be a nice addition. It's on my wish list. I put the rest of my wish list into a flash fiction piece that has all kinds of fun gadgets including a robotic lizard that eats the spiders and other bugs in the house.

But what would we do if we were suddenly without power for an extended period? Like at least a decade? We've become very dependent on those gadgets. Both of those books dealt with this issue along with that of survival. The most compelling thing about both was: How far will people go to save themselves and their loved ones in a world turned upside down?

And imagine your whole library is on your Kindle. It's the 21st Century version of Twilight Zone's Time Enough at Last with Burgess Meredith.

If your power was cut for a decade or so, what would you miss the most? What would you gain from going without for a while?

And more importantly, would you be an every man for himself coper or would you be organizing the neighborhood?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Awesome Lavratt gets Droidified, Immortals and digital manga


November 11th

Directed by: Tarsem Singh
Written by: Charles Parlapanides and Vlas Parlapanides
Cast: Henry Cavill, Stephen Dorff, Isabel Lucas, Freida Pinto, Luke Evans, Kellan Lutz, with John Hurt and Mickey Rourke
Produced by: Gianni Nunnari, Mark Canton, Ryan Kavanaugh

An evil King tears through Greece on a bloody rampage in search of the invincible Bow of Epirus. With the Bow, he could depose the gods of Olympus and rule the world. One villager, a stone mason, setting out to avenge his mother's death, dares to stop him.


Awesome Lavratt is now available as an app on the Android platform. It's already available for iPhone/iPad. Next stop: Blackberry.

If you have an android smart phone, give it a read and give me some love - by way of a starred review.

Defending the Future IV: No Man's Land is off to the presses. Check out the updated Dark Quest Books' Defending the Future page to see all the authors, their chapter icons and other books in the series. Cover art by Mike McPhail.

I was cut down by the coughing crud Monday or I would have posted this then, if only to say Manga Monday in the title. ;)

NEC BIGLOBE, through its Sugoi Books, launched its digital library of more than 100 manga books translated into English on the Android platform. Here are a few of the titles now available:

-Cat Eyed Girl (c)Kazuo Umezu/ SHOGAKUKAN CREATIVE
-Joan (c)Yoshikazu Yasuhiko/ JAPAN BROADCAST PUBLISHING Co., Ltd
-Psychic File Ogata Katsumi (c)Mayuri Yamamoto/ Jitsugyo no Nihon Sha

You can purchases digital books for Android here. BIGLOBE plans to add apps to Sugoi Books for iPhone/iPad, Symbian and Blackberry.

Sugoi Books offers select titles free of charge until April 28, 2011 (JST). See details on Sugoi Books app.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

EE Knight - serving up vampires

EE Knight has your basic rags to ... well, pro writer ... story. And now he's definitely on a roll with his meal ticket, the Vampire Earth series. Here's what the Vampire Earth website has to say of the series:

Our World is Under New Management.

A legendary terror has reentered Earth, establishing a New Order built on harvesting human souls. They smashed our society, altered our climate, and enslaved much of the population that survived their apocalyptic takeover.

Vampire Earth is a series of novels by E.E. Knight. They follow the life of David Valentine, from his youth as a young soldier fighting against the evil which has stolen humanity's future. Valentine grows to manhood defending the embattled freeholds, the remaining islands of sanity from the madness of the grotesque Kurian Order.

When he's not writing, EE Knight is gaming, reading, traveling, listening to good tunes or watching movies. He also digs speaking at conventions and libraries and teaching here and there. Now, let's get to know him a bit better...

AW: The market is flooded with vampires, zombies and werewolves. What makes your vampires special? What is your vampire canon?

EEK: If by canon you mean books that I drew on for my mythos, some of my favorite books include the Lumley Necroscope series, [John] Steakley's Vampires, and works by Richard Matheson and Stephen King.

With my vampire canon, I took the traditional powers of the creature and divided them into physical and mental. All the mental powers went to my ancient, virtually-immortal (thanks to their vampiric lifestyle) aliens - the Kurians. The Kurians look like an octopus combined with a bat, or maybe a living, misshapen umbrella with a lot of eyes at the top. They can appear to shapeshift (it's an illusion though; they might be able to make themselves look like a wolf, but they can't bite like one). They also have a psychic link with their subordinates. Physically, they're weak -- if you or I could get it on the floor we could stomp it to death fairly easily.

Each Kurian animates a handful of "Reapers." These are the physical side of the creature. They come out at night because sunlight interferes with the mind-to-mind communication of the Kurian and their Reapers (sunlight doesn't kill them; they just aren't as effective and can go stupid without their master puppeting them). Reapers are tall, bony, human-looking, with nasty fangs and long, clawed fingers. When a Kurian wishes to speak to a human he does it through a Reaper. They're fast, tough and wear thick robes of bullet-proof material. They live off the blood of humans, whereas the Kurian connected to the Reaper gets psychic energy from the fear and agony of the victim -- soul sucking, if you will. Sometimes a Kurian will torment a victim for a while before killing it, as a chef might add spice and sauce to a dish, the human's emotional state adds flavor. The system's rather like a James Bond movie, you know how Bond always has to deal with the villain of the movie, plus the villain's tough "Oddjob" type indestructible henchman.

AW: What does military life look like in your Vampire Earth series?

EEK: It varies from region to region, as you see in the books. My hero, Val, comes from one of the larger, better-organized freeholds fighting the vampires (I loosely based it on Tito's anti-Germans in Yugoslavia, a partisan army which not only had military formations but functioning hospitals, schools, and so on).

AW: Have you served in the military yourself?

EEK: No, I was lucky enough to be the first male in the family to turn 18 without his country being in the middle of a war. My dad and the other veterans said I'd be better off going to college.

AW: I love Daphne DuMaurier too. What is your favorite book by her and why?

EEK: I like Rebecca a lot, but the one I read more than any other is "The Birds" in the Don't Look Now collection. It's darker and lonelier than the Hitchcock version. I admire DuMaurier for her perfect pacing, the stories seem to really move along, but she takes her time, if that makes any sense.

AW: How about Stephen King?

EEK: I started reading him in the 70s, I was one of the first generation "The Stand" fanatics. Even his minor characters seem so real, it makes everything in his books seem possible.

AW: How has Louis L'Amour influenced your work?

EEK: He knew how to create a hero. They were almost always tough, competent, intelligent men, and through much of the story they were using all their skills to avoid trouble and reduce conflict. Bad actors and events would finally overtake them, and they'd do what they had to do to survive.

AW: What do you mean by bad actors overtaking them?

EEK: With Louis L'Amour, like a lot of great classic westerns (think Shane), the hero often goes to extraordinary lengths to avoid conflict. By "bad actors" I mean the villains of the piece. Events could mean anything from a range war spiraling out of control to the Indian War the hero's been trying to prevent starting anyway. For example, in L'Amour's Shalako, Shalako Carlin has found a party of rich, treaty-breaking upper-class hunters on Apache lands and is trying to get them out to preserve the treaty -- if the outraged Apache's kill Senator so-and-so and Baron Von Whoozis and Lord Whatever, it means another Apache war. The twist is the hunters are actually hoping to start a little dust up with the Apaches, they're sure their skill with guns and the superiority of their rifles will allow them to prevail over a handfull of Indians.

Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven is in this vein, but with a twist, that being Clint's character was one of those villains in his youth.

AW: What kept you going when you doubted your ability to make it as an author?

EEK: As I was trying to get published, I was working in a series of not-too-interesting jobs. The way I looked at it, writing, even with zero chance of getting published, was an outlet for my imagination and creativity. Otherwise I might end up just drinking my nights away in a bar slumped in front of the TV.

AW: Are your books easy to get into if we start in the middle of the series? Or should readers only start with the first book?

EEK: The first book, Way of the Wolf, gives the most background to the world. I write in little three book mini-cycles with like titles, so it'd be best for a newbie to jump in with Wolf, or Valentine's Rising, or Fall With Honor.

AW: What do you think is the appeal for a long genre series?

EEK: In sf/fantasy, it tends to be either a character or set of characters that the readers love and want to see in new situations, or a world they enjoy returning to because it's alive in their minds. I try and do both.

AW: Does a day ever go by when you're not thinking about one or another of your characters -- not including during your writing time.

EEK: Yeah, that's just it. When you're a storyteller, a line of dialogue or a situation or a character might pop into your imagination any time, so you have to be ready to drop whatever you're doing and jot it down while it's fresh in your mind. I'm not one of those authors who has conversations and arguments with my characters. To me, they're more like historical figures and I'm trying to get the biography right.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes - watch teaser, April 13th at 2:30 pm PDT!

I think going to see Beneath the Planet of the Apes was my very first date. I don't remember my date's name. I was 8 years old. But I went alone with a boy, so I guess it qualifies as a date. We also played penny ante poker at Gma's house. I had just got blue suede clogs and was delighted to have somewhere to go to show them off.

Now, thirty years later, Planet of the Apes is alive again. And you can watch footage from the film with behind-the-scenes goodies and a Q&A on its facebook event page. The movie will hit the big screen in August. The biggest challenge for me will be to accept an actor other than Roddy McDowall as Caesar. This Twentieth Century Fox production has cast Andy Serkis in that role. Alas, Roddy's not as young as he used to be. I was glad to see that Brian Cox and John Lithgow are in the line-up.

The teaser will be shown at 2:30 pm Pacific on Wednesday, April 13th on the facebook event page:
It's living on the Avatar fan page. Hmmm. Now that's just wro...strategic positioning. Actually, this live-stream is produced by WETA, the visual effects masters of Avatar, so I guess they're entitled.


Just got the embed code! Now you can watch it here! w00t!

Watch live streaming video from apeswillrise at

You can also post a question to the Apes Will Rise fan page and it might make the cut. See you there!

And stay tuned tomorrow for an interview with E.E. Knight.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

No Man's Land - final stages before publication!

This cover for No Man's Land was released last weekend. Awesome, huh?

I can't wait to read the other stories in this Defending the Future IV anthology from Dark Quest Books. Lots of talent therein. Not to mention reading the bit about my story in David Weber's forward. The publisher also released this promo and blurb:

There hasn't been a conflict in known history where there weren't women somewhere on the front lines, caring for the men, or fighting beside them. No Man's Land sends up a battle cry, giving voice to the women warriors following that fine military tradition throughout all time. Strong female characters written by talented authors, with all the action and high-tech toys readers have come to expect of the military science fiction genre.

"This collection has a lot going for it […] there's not a single piece here that isn't well worth reading. I modestly — but confidently — predict that I will be very far from the only man who's very, very glad he's read this collection." —David Weber, best-selling author of the Honor Harrington series.

No Man's Land launches at the end of May with launch parties on both coasts.

I just sent off my galley all proofed. I'll hear from Mike McPhail soon about my chapter icon. You can see the authors and the finished icons on the project website.

And as if I needed more good news…
Last weekend I received a rewrite request for my story, "Long Term Memory". It's one of my favorite stories. What's not to love about a sentient elephant with too many memories? The changes they requested were very minor and that's been turned around, too. I don't have a publication date, so I can't share where it's going to appear yet.

I also had two story rejections, but one said how much they liked the story at least. Beats a form letter, for sure.

Staying in the military sci-fi vein, I will post an interview with E.E. Knight next week.

And I did my taxes Monday afternoon and I get money back! I just had to share. ;)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Robert J. Sawyer on www:Wonder

by Robert J. Sawyer
April 2011 Ace

Reviewed by Ann Wilkes

Robert Sawyer's final book of the WWW trilogy, www:Wonder, capped the series off in a very satisfying, thought-provoking manner. I have read and reviewed the other two: www:Wake and www:WATCH. In this final book, we see Caitlin growing up and facing even harder choices. Her Dad. Malcolm Decter, is thrust even more on the forefront of the wave that is Webmind. We see him fight for his family and Webmind and come out of the closet, not as an autistic, as the reader is lead to believe, but as a … no, I can't spoil that one. You just have to read it.

In www:Wake, Caitlin Decter discovers Webmind through a fluke of science. Born blind, Caitlin is fitted with a device that unscrambles the signals from her eye to her brain, restoring sight to one of her eyes. This device is what made it possible to see the World Wide Web and the intelligence emerging within.

In www:WATCH, Caitlin and her family are hounded by a government organization tasked with destroying Webmind as the threat they perceive it (or rather "he" as he has chosen to identify himself) to be.

www:Wonder explores more of what it is to be Webmind. How can he prove that he won't turn on his progenitors? What can he do to prove his loyalty? In www:WATCH, he eradicated spam. What's next? How does he know he will always seek the betterment of the human condition and peace for humanity as Caitlan has taught him? These are the questions expertly addressed in this volume.

Convinced that Webmind is preparing some evil endgame, the Pentagon's top AI expert Colonel Peyton Hume begins to round up the world's best hackers to construct a virus for him, only to learn they' each disappeared right before he got to them.
He'd tried last night to contact three more names on the black-hat list. He'd been unable to get hold on one—which could mean anything, he knew; another was indeed missing, according to her devastated boyfriend; and the third told Hume to cram it up his ass…

"Yeah, I'll go into the office," he said. "And I'll check with the FBI again, see if they've got any leads. The guy I talked to yesterday agreed it was a suspicious pattern—maybe even a serial killer; he called it the 'hacker whacker.' But the only blood at Chase's place was his own, and there's no sign of foul play in the other cases, they say."

She snuggled closer to him in the dark. "You'll do the right thing," she said. "As always."

The alarm went off. He let it ring, wishing the whole world could hear it.

When Hume finally catches up with the hackers, the truth is shocking. Webmind's power cannot be questioned, but he still has limitations for which he needs thinking humans. With the help of an anonymous activist in the Peoples Republic of China and this assembled team of experts, Webmind performs his demonstration, the scale of which is staggering — and hilarious. You'll really experience the urge to stand up and cheer. And wish it could all be true. Truly a feel-good ending.

Another aspect that made me smile for pages and pages was that Webmind chose the bonobo-chimpanzee half-breed Hobo as the vehicle of his presence when addressing the United Nations. Hobo is only too happy to aid the friend who helped him come to terms with his identity and speak out for his own rights(www:Wake). Here it is in Webmind's words:
"There would be confusion between me and the machine. I am not a robot, and I don't wish to be perceived as one; also, the fear would be that if I controlled one robot, I might soon control millions. Hobo is unique like me: I am the only Webmind; he is the only bonobo-chimpanzee hybrid. No one can confuse Hobo for me, and no one can worry that there will soon be an army of such beings under my command."

I highly recommend this trilogy. If you haven't read any of them yet, then you don't have to wait in between books now. Lucky you.


Rob consented to another Science Fiction and Other ODDysseys interview. Yeah me! Or, as Caitlin would say, "Supreme wootage!" (author photo by Christina Molendyk of Argent Dawn Photography, Calgary)

AW: I truly loved the WWW trilogy. When you're done with a long project like that, do you miss it and the characters, or are you sick to death of it from rewriting and editing?

RJS: Honestly, it's the latter. Don't get me wrong -- I love Caitlin and the other characters, but I spent six years of my life, off and on, working on the WWW trilogy; that's the longest I've ever worked on anything ever. I was very happy to finish the project and move on to something else. Still, I think the WWW trilogy is the best thing I've ever written, or probably ever will write.

AW: I loved that you addressed autism and did it so well. Not to mention the disability of blindness. It's so important to speak up for marginalized, misunderstood and persecuted people. The long discussion with Barbara Decter over who or what was next with granting rights was great. Who instilled your compassion for the underdogs of society?

RJS: My parents. It's funny, because they both went to the University of Chicago to study economics, and, first, that institution isn't known for a particularly compassionate breed of economics, and, second, in general, economics is rightly called the dismal science. But my parents were typical left-leaning academics and I grew up in the 1960s. I was taught to always try to see the other person's point of view, and my mother -- a feminist who often used her maiden name professionally in the 1960s, when that was rare -- certainly helped to set the template for Caitlin's mother.

It's also no coincidence that Caitlin's mom is a Unitarian. I don't practice that religion -- or any -- myself now, but I was raised a Unitarian, and Unitarians are very inclusive, compassionate people.

AW: You really got me with your bait and switch. I thought Caitlin's dad was going to out himself as autistic. Good job!

RJS: Thank you. That's one of my favorite scenes. Part of the whole underlying theme of the trilogy is that you can be moral without God; it's a message that people need to hear. I argue in the series, based on game theory, for nonzero-sumness: that it's possible to have win-win situations that make sense, and aren't just the result of the threat of punishment or reward in some putative afterlife; the payoff matrix is real, in the here and now, and tends toward altruism and cooperation.

AW: Can you tell me a bit about the protagonist of the new book and the premise?

RJS: I'm just finishing up my -- gak! -- 21st novel, with the working title of Triggers. It's about post-traumatic stress disorder, the scientific nature of memory, and an attempt to assassinate the US president. It's a large ensemble cast -- the most characters I've ever had in a novel -- but I suppose if I had to name one as the lead, it would be Susan Dawson, who is Secret Service agent-in-charge of the president's protective detail. I like that I'm doing a book in which the main character is not an academic or a scientist for a change.

AW: I'm glad you're addressing PTSD. So many people suffer from it.

RJS: It's a huge issue, and it's not just related to war, of course. I'm not prepared to publicly go into it at this stage, but I will say one of the epiphanies of my last couple of years is that I suffer to a degree from PTSD; recognizing that has finally let me begin to deal with it. I'm trying, as always, to handle the issue sensitively in the novel.

AW: How's the research for the new book coming? I hear you visited the White House.

RJS: The research is done; I'm in the final writing stages -- the book is due in less than two months. I didn't actually visit the White House, but did get amazing behind-the-scenes tours of the George Washington University Hospital, which is where much of the action is set, and of the US Capitol Building. And, of course, I did tons of research on PTSD and memory.

AW: You still seem to be the personable, down-to-earth guy you were before your brush with Hollywood. :) Can you tell me briefly what that was like? The highs and lows? Long days, celeb dinners, etc.?

RJS: Honestly? There were no lows. That's why Hollywood is so seductive for many people; as long as you're working, it's an incredible place to be. Sure, the days are long, but so what? You're having a blast every second! I seriously think about moving there from time to time (and not just because Toronto just had another snow storm!).

In terms of highs, well, there were so many great moments, it's hard to choose -- but getting to go to a taping of The Big Bang Theory, sitting in the VIP section of the audience, and then going to the after-party with the cast was pretty amazing.

AW: You wrote at least one of the episodes. Do you have plans of writing more screenplays? Do you ever toy with going straight to a screenplay rather than adapting a book?

RJS: I wrote the 19th episode, "Course Correction," and little bits and pieces of dialog throughout the series -- the staff writers would come to me for technical or science stuff. I'd written scripts before that had been commissioned, but hadn't been produced, and I'm sure I'll do more scriptwriting again. I did an original series pilot a little while ago that was ultimately not made -- the fate of most series pilots -- although I was well paid for it ... and I'm actually thinking of now turning that into a novel. My degree is in Radio and Television Arts from Toronto's Ryerson University; I've always been interested in TV, and one could argue that I merely got sidetracked for a couple of decades into writing for print.

Also, the money is seductive, I have to say: a TV script and a short story have about the same number of words in them. But you're lucky to get six cents a word for the short story, whereas guild minimum for scripts works out to about six dollars a word.

AW: Isn't there an option on another of your books?

RJS: There are always options on various books of mine; I think there are five under option at the moment. It's a nice secondary income stream.

AW: You've been doing a lot of touring with these books, both at bookstores and conventions. Do you have a couple survival tips for staying healthy, rested and sane when on the road so much?

RJS: Yes. Arrange in advance for friends to meet you at the airport, or to go out to dinner with them, in whatever city you're going to. It takes the loneliness out of it. I'm doing five cities in the next week, and I've got a nice dinner date lined up in each city. That really helps to make it something to look forward to instead of a grind.

AW: Where can your fans find you in the next month or so to get www: Wonder signed?

RJS: My travel schedule is at

Editor's Note: If you haven't read my first interview with Rob, you can find it herein. And don't forget to check out his website.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Engaging the senses - like a two-year-old

Everyone has a different writing process. My first draft tends to read more like a "tell". It serves as an outline sometimes. It's me getting the plot and players down on the page — unless it's the world that sparked the story. Occasionally, I build the world first, then populate it and throw in a plot. But mostly, my stories or novels start with a "what if" that includes characters and the situation.

My characters often start out in a "white room". I'm big on inner and interpersonal conflict, collective problem-solving and first contact, so the setting is there just to support the story, and can be filled in later. Don't get me wrong, I do provide basic descriptions along the way. But then my crit group and first readers hammer me with questions and I know where I need to provide more detail.

And then there's my grandson, Wil. If I could put him in that room, he would explore it with every faculty at his disposal: his eyes, his hands, his tastebuds, his ears and his nose.

Wil has a serious case of raccoon paws. That's a term my husband used when our son, Jason, was little. Jason would constantly touch things that weren't his or weren't meant to be messed with. Wil puts Jason all to shame. He gets into five things at once. I remarked to my daughter that his mind is super active and his body's struggling to keep up. At 3 am, when I couldn't sleep, it occurred to me that I needed Wil's inquisitiveness in my writing. When he does this stuff, I can just imagine what's going through his head:

What does that feel like?

Will those fit me?

What sound would that make if I threw it across the room and it hit something? (He thinks this pretty much every day.)

Ooh! There's a hole on that thing where the music comes out. Where's that golf ball? (Really. He did.)

I wonder if these come off. I bet I can make this into a game.

Can I fit in there?

If I applied Wil's curiosity and over-riding instinct to explore his surroundings to my writing, I'd turn out some incredibly textured descriptions. Maybe, when I get my character into a new room or environment I should ask myself, "What would Wil want to do or know here?"

If I put him in the room with my character and he finds nothing to do, I have my work cut out for me.

Of course, when it comes to taste, that's his little sister's specialty. Everything goes in the mouth to see how it will taste and how it will feel on her gums with those teeth coming in.

When I'm needing a refresher on writing vivid descriptions, I turn to Janet Burroway's Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft.

Authors who I believe excel at setting include: Daphne DuMaurier, John Jakes, Amy Tan, Vernor Vinge, William Gibson, Dan Simmons and Terry Pratchett. What authors are your favorites with regard to vivid descriptions?