Thursday, June 27, 2013

Are Writers Really Insane?

The title of my blog is kind of a joke, and kind of not. I mean, the word "insane" is a strong word. It's an exaggeration. . . mostly.

This is not a scientific observation here—I haven't taken a survey, and I wouldn't know how to design a scientific survey anyway—but what do you suppose most people think about writers? How about some suggestions: we're eccentric, depressive, spacy, weird. We use big words all the time and we are aloof. We are disorganized and we have no sense of time.

Are you going to sit there and tell me people don't say that? Go on, the comment section is below. No? Because you know they do. The ones who don't say it are THINKING it. They are.
It is certainly possible to list writers who are pretty together as individuals. They turn in their stuff on time, dress well, and even remember to eat. But there are reasons why the general sense people have about writers is that we're DIFFERENT. Why is that?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

ART POST: Ouija Board

Since I mentioned my artworkings, it seems only right that I should show you what I've been working on. Therefore, I present this design for a Ouija Board. It's a fairly large picture in its full glory at 12" x 18", but I have some space limits here, so you're getting the small version with some detail pics.

You can click these to see them a bit larger.

The color version!

Detail 1

Detail 2

Also in black and white!

I'm not sure how I would go about this, but I think it would be fun to figure out how to transfer this image to an actual board, and design a planchette to go with it, to make it a usable Ouija Board.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Using Multiple Talents: Freedom or Folly?

(I almost called this post "When Art Mind Attacks!" You'll see why in a minute.)

I struggle with wanting to do All The Things. I have many, many, many, many, many, many, many interests. But for the purposes of this post, I'm going to write about the main two interests at war in my head: art and writing. Or writing and art, depending on the day. I'm going to throw aside such social niceties as humility and modesty and say that I'm good at both. Not OUTSTANDING at either, you understand, but definitely good. With time and practice, maybe I could be really good at one or the other.

The trouble is that they keep stealing time from each other, the brats. How am I supposed to make forward, linear progress when I practice one thing for a while, and then switch to the other thing for a while, and keep going back and forth?

Friday, June 14, 2013

7 Ways to Improve as a Writer

PREMISE: Every writer can get better at writing.


The standard advice you hear about how to get better at writing is to write more, finish your projects, and submit your work. You're told to write either a certain number of words or for a certain amount of time every day, ideally at the same time of day, and after a while this is supposed to magically make your writing better.

The trouble with that, I think, is that it leads to people just churning out words at the same level of quality—the level where they started. Any improvement is slow. The advice to finish projects is the best part of it. Learning to finish one story and start another one is important. Submitting them is also important, but personal rejections are rare; getting a bunch of form rejections doesn't tell you anything about what you need to improve.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

WHAT FATES IMPOSE: Now on Kickstarter!

The stories are in and the Kickstarter page is up. This anthology only needs some love. If you're already excited about What Fates Impose and you know all about Kickstarter, you can go and see the table of contents and backer rewards right now!

If you'd like to know more about the book first, there's more information below.

Life is uncertain, and the chance to get a peek into the future is tempting... but is it a good idea to look?

Friday, June 7, 2013


(click it for a larger version)


Cover art by Steven C. Gilberts.

Cover design by me!

Ten Books for a Desert Island

The eternal question: which ten books would you want to have if you were stranded on a desert island for the rest of your life? This is what I'm pondering, as I stare down summer (yesterday, coincidentally, was the last day of the school year for my three sons). I have not yet read and will not ever get to read everything, but for me, today, this is the set of books I would choose.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Take a look at my list and comment below with books you think I would like, based on the books I'd be willing to read over and over for the rest of my life. There are no wrong answers! Your opinion counts around here!

Story Collections

It's a challenge to write a short description of a whole book of short stories, so I'll tell you the things these collections have in common: excellent prose, very strange circumstances in every story, menace and conflict within and without the characters, and my total envy because those people wrote these stories and I didn't.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tips for Giving Useful Story Critiques

It's currently fashionable to give brutal critiques for fiction. The idea is that for a writer to improve at writing, she must receive the most blunt, strongly-worded responses possible from the people who evaluate her work. This will toughen her up. If she can't take this type of criticism, she is told, she will never, ever make it as a writer.

I'm not so sure that we need to be this extreme about critiques. A critique is a detailed analysis and discussion of a literary work. I think that, too often, people are encouraged to shift from a critical analysis of a story's merits and faults to being critical, or "inclined to find fault or to judge with severity, often too readily."

We speak English. We have so many words to choose from. You can clearly express thoughts about a story's strengths and weaknesses without being brutal, and without being too soft and fuzzy. There's a middle ground. For the purposes of this post, I'll think in terms of critiquing a short story, but this stuff should all be applicable to novels, essays, and even poetry.

On to my tips!