Jan 27, 2016

Why Knowing Tropes is Important

Tropes often get a bad rap. The word is used as an insult and sneered at. And sure, tropes can be bad when they’re over done or thrown around lazily, but Tropes are an important part of writing and writing well.

There are two specific reasons you should know your tropes.
1 – So you don’t waste your time writing a boring, done-a-hundred-times plot line.
2 – To give yourself the opportunity to turn that trope on its head.

There are lots of genres where tropes are great! Romance, Fantasy and Science Fiction all have amazing tropes that if played with or compounded on can create a great plot line.

Tropes are tropes because they work and because the familiarity there can lead to a better experience for your reader. It’s like wading into water that slowly gets deeper instead of jumping straight into the deep end and realizing you can’t swim. Giving a reader something they know and can relate to (and hey, maybe they love that trope) before you turn everything on its head is one perfect way to get your audience into the story before pulling the rug out from underneath them.

The thing that makes tropes unreliable is that they are a formula that’s been laid out time and time again. That means they can lead to a story readers will find boring. If your reader gets fifty pages in and they don’t feel like they’re reading anything new… they might put your book down in favor of another.

Tread lightly with tropes. Understand the volatile relationship they have with your prose. Use them wisely.

Not sure if the thing you’re toying with is a trope-laden mine field? Check out the TV Tropes.

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Jan 18, 2016

A Month Later, My Thoughts on The Force Awakens

It’s been a month since Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out and I figure we’re past the point of possible spoilers. If you’re going to see it, you’ll have seen it by now. If you haven’t seen it by now, you’re probably not all that worried about spoilers.
In the past month, I’ve seen a lot of varying opinions on the film and the continuation of the franchise. There’s been a lot of hate, but there’s also been a lot of joy.

For those of you who don’t want to read the rest of this, there’s a TLDR at the bottom.

As I don’t like big crowds, we went to see it on Sunday morning of opening weekend. The theater was still three quarters full, and while I am a fan of the series (yes, I can even find merit in the prequel trilogy), I still don’t understand why people clap in theaters…. Which people did.  For the silliest of reasons. But whatever, you enjoy your thing your way.
At this point, I’ve seen it three times (I might be a fan, but I can tell you, I’ve seen it that many times because this is one of the few things my husband can out-geek me on) and throughout each viewing, I’ve been able to watch it a little more objectively.

Things I loved about this film:

Ladies, ladies everywhere!
When you watch the original film there are only two memorable female characters (I say that because having recently watched all seven films in order, I can’t remember anyone in the film besides Leia and Beru.) TFA has a female protagonist, sure, but more importantly than that, it has female characters ALL OVER THE PLACE. In the First Order in the command center, as storm troopers (let’s be honest, I’m crossing my fingers that Phasma’s division is all women storm troopers), the resistance has women all over the place in their base and even as fighter pilots. Seriously, the systemic sexism in our own society shouldn’t have to affect a society so far outside of our own.

The relationship between Ren, Huxx and Snoke.
I can’t be the only one who loved that it felt like two teenage boys vying for the affection and acceptance of a father figure. The adolescent rage and bickering was an amazing and fun thing to watch. Honestly, that particular relationship is my second favorite in the whole film.

It managed to meld the things I love about the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy.
Yes, I know the first three episodes are loathed by many, but I think there’s a lot to be happy about in them. One of the things I enjoyed was that the planets they visited didn’t feel as stagnant as those in the original trilogy. The digital effects made those worlds come alive in a way that I think was lacking before. The integration of practical effects with the gorgeous digital landscapes and flight sequences.


The reminder that everything can change and stay completely the same.
If we step back and look at what happened in the 20 years between episode III and IV and then compare it to what has happened in the 30 years between VI and VII, there’s a beautiful symmetry of corruption and power.
Unchecked Palpatine created an Empire that slowly choked the galaxy into submission. With only a paltry resistance to work against them, the First Order has managed to accomplish something incredibly similar. There’s something sadistically delightful about that.

I’m going to be honest. I really didn’t want to like the droid going in… and I’m not sure why. But when it comes down to it, the droid is so much like a puppy, I couldn’t help myself.

Things I didn’t love:

This is probably going to be weird, but I had a hard time with his size. I know it didn’t change, as it was a practical effect most of the time, but from scene to scene, it seemed larger and smaller. Maybe it was its shape, but that bugged me for whatever reason.

Leia’s reactions to both Luke and Han’s disappearance.
I know that with age comes a different set of priorities, and the loss of a child—weather to death or the dark side—tears a whole in parents. But in the first trilogy, Leia wouldn’t have been so passive about her brother and husband/partner deserting her. She’d be pissed. I missed the snarky banter she and Han had in those first movies. There was no anger in her, and I felt like that translated to a character who’d turned her grief into a form of passivity.

The rathtars.
They work as a plot device and I have no problem with them in general, but in the end, the way they came together digitally wasn’t something I enjoyed. Even with moving through the freighter crazy fast, they just didn’t work for me, visually.

The interaction between Rey and Leia.
There’s so little of it. You’d think, that they’d at least get as much on-screen conversation as Leia and Finn. These are two incredibly powerful characters who have little time together as-seen  in the film, and, based on how they part ways, they don’t seem to have spoken much at all while off screen.  There was a great potential for that relationship… and I feel like it was lost.

The ending.
I get that this is a Star Wars “thing.” End with a scene that has no dialogue. Every movie does it. And I’m okay with that aspect. I’m just not a fan of this particular ending. I’m sure they’ll find a way to make it work, but right now, it feels like they need to start episode eight on that island. If it had ended with Rey and Chewie riding off into the sunset to find Luke (ala Lando and Chewie in Empire) the beginning of VIII could have gone anywhere at all.

In conclusion…

The Force awakens was a great way to come back into the franchise and remind an audience that the story they knew and loved is not something that is going to die anytime soon (seriously people, read the books). I’ve heard a lot of people use this film to disparage others in the series. I’ve read a lot of posts on how this is just a rehash of the original. And I’ve seen a LOT of theories on who Ray is. The only theories I’m hoping for are that Finn is Lando’s son, and that he and Poe do something about all that sexual tension between them.
There are a lot of people still demanding that nothing can replace the original trilogy, and that’s fairly true. Empire is, to date, still my favorite of the films (Largely because I REALLY want a wampa, but I don’t think they can be house-broken). TFA gives us something to look forward too. More importantly, its box office numbers show the film industry that SF is still something that sells if you do it right.

TLDR: While TFA is an awesome start to a new trilogy, Empire is still my favorite.

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Jan 15, 2016

7 Things You Should Have On Your Desk

Pens. Oh, so many pens.
There is nothing more exasperating than needing a pen and not being able to find one. Or worse, using the one you have on hand only to find out that the flimsy piece of marketing that you’ve been relying on for the last two months has finally given up the ghost. Pens are important. That ink can be the lifeblood of to-do lists, notes for books, posts, and revisions. It’s important. Don’t slack on that.

Note Paper.
You might think this is a very practical answer and it is… but I might be headed down a different path than you. Paper is a great tool. It can do amazing things, like keep those little thoughts that would otherwise burrow so deep in your brain you’ll only remember them at 3 in the morning when you wake from a fever dream.  They can be used to make boxes or airplanes or cranes – when you need a break from your brain. But most importantly, they can be used to ward off those evil distraction offenders who seek to pull you from your work with the temptation of something “fun.” SLASH, people. It’s the only way.

Inspiration material.
It may seem silly and potentially a waste of space, but brain fatigue can hit at any time, and if you have to get yourself to pinterest to find those inspiring images, you’re going to fall into the distraction hole and I for one am not a fan of trying to claw my way out of those. Having inspiration material – be it print outs of pictures from pinterest, quotes from your favorite authors/public figures, or that dragon your aunt got you for Christmas three years ago – has the potential to keep you on track.

The blood of your enemies, in a vial or jar or something. No one needs that mess.
Used as a talisman to ward off the demons of procrastination for centuries. Remember, deep paper cuts are the preferred method of collection, but a normal blood draw or a stab to the jugular works as well.  Just be sure to cover your tracks and if anyone asks, say it’s a gelatin experiment your niece made in her 6th grade science class. Use the right incantations to seal the jar, and this might apply to the above category as well.

Water. Hydration is key.
Dehydration is the last thing you want when you’re trying to get all the things done. Imagine the scenario. You’re working away and BAM, dead. Should have drank that water. Okay, in all seriousness, if you drop dead at your desk, it’s not going to be a product of dehydration, but that doesn’t mean you need to keep water on hand. If you’re working away, a trip to the kitchen to get a drink can totally break your productivity. Keep water on hand (it’s better for you than soda anyway) and keep your thoughts flowing and your fingers flying.

No, not a computer mouse, the little white ones with cute pink tails. Why you ask? Productivity. Put that mouse in a wheel and watch it go. Then feel bad that you’re not getting as much done as that rodent. What does he have that you don’t.  Feel the ire, then feel the burn… in your fingers. GET TO WORK.

The beating heart from your chest.
Seriously. That’s a better place for it. You’re far less likely to get it broken if you just remove it entirely. Keep it safe on a pillow (red, satin) where no one can get to it but you… and maybe the mice.

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Jan 4, 2016

How 2015 Actually Went

Reading –
57 Books

I set my goal at Fifty books, and if we go by technicalities… I didn’t actually make it. Nine of the books in that count are my own. I did read them, but somehow, it feels a little like cheating.

The longest book was Zero World by Jason M. Hough (I snagged an Arc at PHX Comicon) and the shortest was a MoPO Short Story, Silver Linings by Pip Balantine and Tee Morris.

Writing –
Amazingly, I’m only 77,000 words shy of last year’s count. The comparison chart looks ugly, and I wrote about a third of that in the last two months of the year. I had a total of 161 recorded writing days and averaged about 2,248 words/day.

Best month, November: 63,624. Worst month, June: 3,260. Average: 30,162

Publishing –
9 Titles

Up five from 2014, I’m a little surprised by that number. Then I remember that only two of them were full length novels, and I understand how I was able to drop nine titles while struggling with heath issues. Regardless, all five books in the Lunar Colony VI series (a print omnibus will be available by the end of December), Never Alone, and books 4, 5, and 5.5 of the Flynn Monroe series made their way into the world this year and I’m really proud of that.

Blogging –
161 Posts

Averaging about 13 posts a month, I had a pretty weak middle (though I’m not about to say I started strong). I’ve gotten about 20 more posts in than last year, and I’m hoping to improve again, getting back up around where I was when I was blogging consistently in 2011.

Best Month, December with 33. Worst Month, July with 4.

Jan 1, 2016

December 2015 Round-Up

Reading –
5 Books
Two of my own, one steampunk short story, one contemporary romance short, and a SF title my mother has been praising for almost two years (and my mom doesn’t like SF). I’m going to blame this one on the holidays. It’s really difficult to read when you’ve got ninety obligations popping out at you each week. I still didn’t manage to get anything done, even with my reading sacrifices.

Writing –
Usually, December is an incredible mire of unproductivity. I feel like this December, my brain was trying to figure out how it could make up for the summer months where I royally sucked it up. I managed to finish off one re-write, make a little headway in the next draft I need to finish and get some work done on a side project as well. It was—astonishingly—my second best writing month of the year.

Publishing –
2 Titles
I'm not sure why I've done this to myself the last two years, but I'm determined not to do it again next year. December is hectic enough as it is before I throw two release dates at myself!

Blogging –
33 Posts

Having made a commitment to be present here, to keep myself grounded if nothing else, I’m really proud of the fact that I’ve been able to keep it up. As I’m sure I’ve said before, schedules and spreadsheets keep me sane! Let’s hope I can continue on in the coming months.