Bradley P. Beaulieu The Straits of Galahesh Giveaway

This one’s been on my TBR list for a while, and I might not get to it until next year, but the cover of book one, The Winds of Khalakovo caught my eye as soon as I saw it. Anything that is clearly not standard hack and slash swords and sorcery or medieval epic fantasy draws my interest, and airships are awesome, so here’s my plug for extra points to win free copies.

Anyway, he’s got a draw for free copies here, so if you’re interested, enter. This is an author from the Online Writing Workshop, so it should be awesome.

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The Art of Bad Titles or Words I Swear Never to Use in a Title

There are certain words that make catchy titles, and certain words that make my eyes glaze over if I see them in the title of a book. Basically, if one of the following words is in the title of the book, you’ve got one strike against you in convincing me to read it:

  • Heart
  • Moon
  • Star
  • Crystal
  • Blade
  • Shadow
  • Quest
  • Dream
  • Dark/Darkness

If I ever am tempted to use two of the before mentioned words in a title, somebody please shoot me.

I mean, I’m not the best at titles, but skimming over a list of amateur fiction titles in a workshop, I found at least four to seven titles containing each of those words. I read a couple out to my husband, and he said, “I think I’ve read that book. Like, five times.”

Really, if the best title I can come up with for a story is The Crystal of Dreams, or The Moonblade, or Heart of the Whatever the Hell, then maybe you need to rethink your story. If that really, honestly is the most appropriate title, then, well, I don’t know what to say.

But chances are, it isn’t. Chances are, there’s something more unique and intriguing to your story than the name of the object of power that’s going to save the day when your hero acquires/uses/destroys it. What titles like that tell me, is that this story is about a thing, that’s probably some kind of gimmick that makes the story go, and little more than that. Doesn’t tell me about characters, or anything like that.

Titles that attract me are ones that have more, you know, unique words. Actually, I think the word I’m looking for is specific. Words that refer to something specific, rather than vague ideas. The first thing that comes to mind is the one I keep looking at, and I’m not sure if I’ll read, but the title grabs me, is “Whitechapel Gods.” Whitechapel is a district in London. It has meaning to me. It gives a lot of context to the word “Gods.” The words in my list, they could mean a hundred million things, in context, and paired with another one of the words in the list, it’s even worse, because then you have no context provided by the second word.

Which reminds me, there’s a clause in my vow never to use those words that states that those words may be used freely if they are being used literally. Peter S. Beagle’s story “Two Hearts” refers to the two hearts that a Griffin has, in the world of the story, because both must be pierced to kill it. If a character’s actual heart has been replaced with clockwork, then I’m good with a title like “Clockwork Heart.” I reserve the right to use “Moon” in my title, if the characters are actually traveling to the moon. “Star” and “Dream” would be reserved for sci fi only. The rest, I can’t really think of a good excuse for.

Just my two cents, and just my opinion. Anyone else have anything that makes their eyes glaze over when they see it in a title?

Book Review: The Hunger Games

Ok, so people kept saying, here and there and everywhere, omg, you should read The Hunger Games. So many places, I heard the same recommendation. I had my new e-reader and found the entire trilogy for $17. So I read it.

And holy crap, they were right.

I read it in about three days, which, for me, is about my record. I think my record is two days, and that was for a much shorter novel. Granted, two of those days were stressed out, what can I do to distract myself because there’s nothing I can do days, but still, it was very much what I needed to distract myself in those days.

I won’t make this too long, because I think there are a crap-ton of reviews of this particular novel already out there, but there’s one main point I’ll address. The main criticism – possibly the only criticism I’ve seen for this book, has been that the ending was too predictable. And you know what? That’s valid. I looked at the end of part two, and thought, you know, I can only think of one way that this could end and the end be satisfying. And I was pretty well right. There were details, I didn’t know exactly the circumstances the ending was going to come into, but the main plot twist at the end, that was no surprise to me.

On the other had, it *was* the only way that I could see this story ending that would be satisfying. And I always think, if you build up towards something you either have to satisfy the reader, or come up with something better. In this case, it was satisfy the reader. But the storytelling, the crafting of the story, was what kept me reading. What’s going to happen next? Who’s going to die next? How is the Katniss going to survive all of this?

There are those who say “there are no original stories, only original story telling.” I have to agree with this. Avatar, the movie, hell that’s not original in the least, but it’s still a really awesome movie. The Hunger Games, maybe it’s a tad predictable, for an experienced reader, but it’s well spun. Plot is not everything in a story, but sometimes the journey is. Sometimes it’s what the author does to make it all real that makes all the difference.

Robocall Rally – Winnipeg

This blog was created as my writing blog. I realize that some people don’t like when a writer has an agenda, especially a political one. If you’re one of those people, you’re probably not my target audience, so full disclaimer: I will be posting political stuff on this blog and I will *not* apologize for it.

Today was a day of action for Canadians to protest electoral fraud. Across Canada, we marched, waving flags, and holding signs.

In Winnipeg, around three hundred people, including myself, met at River and Osbourne, where Kevin Lamoureux, MP for Winnipeg North, and former MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis gave speeches, calling for the Conservative Government to conduct full independent investigations into the robocall scandals. A petition was signed, and we marched to the office of the Winnipeg South Centre MP, Joyce Bateman.

The office was closed, and no one has been able to contact Mrs. Bateman. It’s like she didn’t want to hear what we had to say. </sarcasm>

It was not entirely unexpected. Obviously she has no defense, or she would have had something to say to us. Instead, we made do by singing O Canada outside her abandoned office.

The Conservative Government has refused to fully investigate the Robocalls. They’ve pointed the finger at the Liberals, demanded that the Liberals release their phone records (which they did) but then refused to release their own. What kind of person does that if they’re not a bunch guilty bastards? If they’re not behind it, let them clear themselves! But they won’t. The only reason anyone could possibly have refusing to release their own records, refusing to investigate, is if they have something to hide.

That’s the end of the story. They want to pass laws that allow police unlawful search and seizure rights – they want to be able to spy on our internet usage, and they want mandatory minimums for blue collar crime. Lets see some mandatory minimums for electoral fraud!

I am disgusted with our government and ashamed of it. It doesn’t even matter who was behind  the voter suppression calls, they happened, and the Government is responsible for finding out who threatened our democracy, punish them, and correct it by, at the very least, calling by-elections. But they won’t because they’re happy with the results and they know damn well, they’ve pulled so much BS in the last year that they would likely lose their majority.

This is the sort of thing that we send observers into developing countries to prevent. This is what Canada has fallen to. The only way we’re going to get rid of the Harper Government is if we march into parliament hill and drag them out of their offices kicking and screaming, because they’ll just lie and cheat their way out of anything else.

Punctuation – A Personal Religion

In english class, they taught me what a clause was, and the difference between an independent and a dependent clause, and how to use a comma with all grammatical correctness to separate them.

But that’s not how I learned how to use commas. If you took most of my sentences and asked me to explain why a comma belongs here or there, I would have to tell you half the time that, grammatically, I have no frelling idea. It just feels right.

See, I learned to use punctuation, not from english class, but from reading. I read a lot. I learned these things organically, from seeing them used properly, a million times over in hundreds of books over the years. I use commas and such by feel, much like a musician might know how to play from sheet music, but still be able to listen to a song and play it by ear without the music written on paper.

It can be hard to describe sometimes, especially when I tend to be such an analytical person. A comma, to me, doesn’t represent a grammatical technicality, it’s a pause for breath. A semicolon is a longer pause to collect your thoughts while linking two ideas. An em-dash at the end of a piece of dialogue means the speaker was interrupted, and an ellipsis means they trailed off. When writing fiction, grammar isn’t important. You can write run on sentences if the narrator’s voice calls for it – incomplete sentences even.

What matters most is the effect what you write has on the reader. I think the only way to gain that intuitive sense for what effect any particular punctuation and sentence structure is going to have is the organic way – by reading extensively, and watching the masters do it.

New Page!

I decided that my post on Dieselpunk deserved it’s own permanent page, so I’ve got an updated version of it here. It seems like there isn’t a lot of other people going the Dieselpunk route, so I figured I should have some more info on it up.

Meanwhile, I’m deep into the climax of the second draft of my current Work In Progress, The Eyelet Dove. I’m very excited to be so close to done. After this, is a couple of separate passes for line edits, dialogue and other touch-ups, and then I type it all up. And the type-in doesn’t even require a rewrite from scratch – if stuff was good, I can just compile it all into a single document. (*Phew*) I so want to be looking at a finished draft I can send out to agents.

Steampunk vs Dieselpunk

Dieselpunk

Full disclosure: The reason I thought to write this is one of the search terms that brings the most random traffic to my site is “Steampunk vs Dieselpunk”. So apparently there is an audience for such a post.

Short version: Steampunk is Victorian/Edwardian level tech with mainly steam powered engines, and Deiselpunk is allowed to have internal combustion. You don’t use Victorian slang, you use WWI/WWII slang. “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” is Steampunk, “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” (terrible movie that it is, don’t watch it) is Dieselpunk. “The Book of Eli” is Post Apocalyptic Dieselpunk.

That’s really all it is. But from there, you extrapolate what effect that tech level has on your society. At that point, war is mechanized, you’re looking at WWI and WWII level tech, with planes, tanks and machine guns. And machines guns were one of the reasons the first great war was so frelling bloody. People have more ways of killing larger numbers of people faster than ever had before, and this tends to mean that Dieselpunk is less often about discovery and invention, and more often about social struggle.

Also, the tech in Steampunk is more often a new thing, or if not new, something wonderous that few people have access to, while in Dieselpunk, the tech is frequently ever-present, and the average person is likely to have ridden on some form of mass transit at some point in their lives. The technology is no longer new, and mass production increases accessibility. You have trams and subways, trains, and other public transportation. You can have cars and motorcycles, and snowmobiles, and jetskis (“Waterworld”) if you want. The horse has been, or is in the process of being replaced in all but the most, shall we say, traditional communities.

That last one’s pretty huge. The horse has been around as transportation for a long time, and that shift is a major turning point in history.

Post Apocalyptic stuff is often Dieselpunk, and I can tell you why it usually ends up Dieselpunk and not Steampunk. It’s because why would we get thrown back to steam level tech, if we had internal combustion? If there’s a loss of tech, it’s likely to go back to the last level where the average person had access to the technology and could do routine maintenance on it, and find someone who can fix it if it breaks down. Computers, it’s completely plausible that computers wouldn’t make it far into a Post Apocalyptic world. That processor – if it burns out – and they burn out eventually, and not infrequently either – the average person can’t fix it, and can’t produce a replacement without sophisticated equipment.

Here, I’m defining sophisticated as anything that the average person has no understanding of, and no picture of what it looks like or how it works. I have a mental picture of a monkey wrench, and an idea of how it’s used. I’ve seen a car jacked up to replace the brake pads – that’s not that complex, and looking at the actual brake mechanism, it makes sense. I do technical support for computers, so I have a general idea of what most computer parts look like – I’ve replaced parts in my computers and my husband’s, and done it myself, without having to take it in to a computer surgeon. But I could not have created the replacement, or, in the case of a broken part as opposed to an upgrade, I could not have repaired the part, or found anyone locally who could.

And I think that’s part of the fascination with Dieselpunk. The technology level is assumed to be around that last level where you can take your vehicle in to a local shop to have it fixed, and not need to have parts shipped in from someplace else in the world where they make new parts. Granted, sometimes these days we do still have to have parts shipped in for our cars, but that’s because we’re moving away from that local based ability to maintain our technology. I had the opportunity to talk to S. M. Sterling at Keycon, a few years ago, and he said the best places to find information on how to build things, is the encyclopedias from those years, because, unlike the encyclopedias these days, they had full instructions on how to build anything you wanted.

That’s all I can think of right now, though. I hope this is helpful to those googling “Steampunk vs Dieselpunk.”