Monday, August 29, 2011

Lines

I'm currently reading a brilliant novel by Cristopher Moore entitled (those of you that know the book should prepare your squee-bladders) "Lamb". Without giving a bunch away, "Lamb" is the story of Levi who is Biff, a man brought back from the dead to write a new gospel for the Bible. Why? He was Jesus' childhood pal, that's why.

This got me thinking about lines. Writing, as with any art form, is about a lot of things, not all of which I care to discuss. It is, however, about pushing boundaries. The problem I see a lot is when people don't understand the difference between pushing a boundary and crossing a line.

If fiction pushes a boundary, it also pushes the reader to think about something in a new way, or more than they did before.

If fiction crosses a line, people will stop reading your book--and they won't think.

I know, I know, we're supposed to enrage our readers. But we're not supposed to enrage them through the very nature of our work. We should enrage them by killing the fairy they've developed a two book relationship with, or having our heroine go on a date with a flmaing asshole--something in the story that works. When you cross a line, everyone can tell.

Imagine if you were sitting down to read, say, Fahrenheit 451, a great book. You get, say, a third of the way into it and, for whatever reason, find a three page long dissertation from a loosely disguised author-insert character about how the Jews should ahve burned.

You crossed a God damn line there--I know because it gave me palpitations just to type it. I want to say it now--I do not agree with what Hitler or the Nazi regime did, nor will I ever. I think it's sick and vile and, if there is a place of eternal torture for wicked souls, may they all be trapped down there. I used it because it's a clear crossing of a line--but some people think it's all right for the art.

It could be, if there was a reason for it. You really are free to write what you like, but I suggest you have a reason for every damn word you use. If you use said evil, vile, nasty rant as foreshadowing, or to show something about your society, it can actually work--but just having it sit there, unadorned and not part of the greater feel of the work, is when you start to cross a line.

In general, jsut please be careful about how far you go. At some point, you'll stumble pushing that boundary and, whether purposeful or not, you'll cross that line--know enough to fix it.

Voss

Once more, I would like to make it blatantly clear that I am not anti-semitic, or pro-death for that matter. It was an example meant to instruct. If you want to throw flack at me for it, I will ignore you.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

You guys rock. You didn't take yourself off o this blog after I went away for, like, a week or more. I was on hiatus, and more than a little burnt out, between SpoCon and my grandiose number of writing projects in the recent days. Suffice it to say I was thoroughly and utterly avoiding writing this time yesterday, ready to just give it up and move on to something more fulfilling, like sewing or crocheting.

Obviously, that didn't last, but it's fun to pretend to hate your muse sometimes, as long as it all falls back into place when it needs to.

This isn't about that, though.

This is about letting go.

I'm currently struggling with a nasty issue. I love everything about my first manuscript, "Tartaros". I love the characters, the world, the plot.

I think I have to let it go, and that prospect makes me want to rip my heart out of my chest and eat it. I've poured over a year of work into that manuscript, just to let it fall to dust? I don't want to do that, and I came to a conclusion. Do you want to hear it?

My problem, the reason I want to do all of this, is because I don't love what I'm doing with it now. Allow me to explain--I'm not editing it to make it a better story, I'm editing it to get it published, and that's wrong.

It's very easy to lose sight of why we write, especially when you start trying to make money at it. You lose that free soul and just want to cry when you have to work on things. Writers start writing because they love it, because they have a story to tell--not so they can be rich. This is just a reminder, for those of you out there wanting to give up and resign yourself to flipping burgers mindlessly the rest of your days: get back to why you first started writing. Forget about finding a market, appeasing that publisher, editing for New York--write because you're inspired, appease your soul, and edit for the sake of the better story.

Everything turns out okay, I promise. The universe has a way of turning things out the way they were always meant to be.

So I'm not letting go of "Tartaros". I'm letting go of the worry and pain of editing for something other than the story, letting go of the constant fear in my gut, and letting go of the voice that tells me I have no worth. To all of those things, I have three words to say:

F*ck.
That.
Sh*t.

Hopefully back on path--I need your love and positive thoughts now more than ever,
Voss

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hall Bros. Entertainment

I tried to be all kinds of secret squirrel about this project in the past, but what the hell--no one who watches me on here doesn't know by now, I'm sure.

In the coming...future? In the near future, a mini-series by Voss Foster will be released by Hall Brothers Entertainment for your reading...pleasure? Yes, pleasure.

Just to make absolutely sure that any wandering, stumbling eyes out there that might read this take extra care to read it when it comes around, here's a bit of a teaser/synopsis thingy:

Morgana Lafayette: war veteran, assassin, hooker. Even to her it sounds pretty strange, but she's accepted her lot in life. She sells herself to passersby on the street.

Now, with the arrival of a new--and wealthy--client, she finds herself thrust into her past--and someone has plans for her.

I don't want to say too much more--that's not my place...yet. Keep a look out for it--and for me.

Voss

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Church of the Immaculate Roast

The grower...
The roaster...
The French press...
May the Bean be with you!

In other words? SpoCon had some damn good coffee.

I know I said I would be posting voraciously all throughout SpoCon.

I lied.

Now, however, I can really hook you up--as well as insert some shameless promotions for certain amazing people.

Now, on Saturday there were some decent panels--there were, I promise--but the crowning achievement of the day was the last two set of blogs. Paramore in paranormal romance and adult themes in science fiction and fantasy. The first was a hellaciously awesome line-up to begin with--Courtney Breazile, Moira J. Moore, and one of my new favorite people, Lilith Saintcrow (see my previous blog post). That panel discussed very serious issues--the power differential between a human and the other in paranormal romance, the believability of an obscenely pwerful creature being led around by a mere human, and the important issue of bestiality when it comes to werewolves.

After that, Erik Scott de Bie joined us for adult themes ranging from violence to sexuality and even touching a bit on psychological darkness. That panel stretched on another hour or so after it was supposed to end and definintely got derailed by our moderator--but that made it so very memorable and enjoyable.

Then came Sunday, a day devoted to gaming. However, I still attended the brilliant NaNoWriMo panel (Frances Pauli, Lilith Saintcrow, and a woman I sadly cannot remember the name of...for shame) and an end of day panel on metaphysical crystals.

All in all, I give this particular con a 4.5 out of 5, which I understand is somewhat because of their new switch to a hotel instead of Gonzaga. I still preferred RadCon, however. But not a lot.

Wishing I had more Cold Forge coffee,
Voss

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Con Day One

If you've been paying any attention to me at all, you should know I'm currently at SpoCon 2011.

Well, aside from the hour plus wait for pre-registration, everything was fairly smashing.

First panel I went to was this brilliant thing with Patricia Briggs, Frances Pauli, and my new favorite chocolate-toting alpha-heroine, Lilith Saintcrow on the uses of myth in urban fantasy. While it degraded slightly into a talk of magic dinguses (or is the plural dingi?) and bronze rubbers (she meant a rubber of bronze, apparently), it was still rather enlightening.

The brainstorming panel was, admittedly, the same old smae old.

All in all, though, things are going pretty well. I mean, where else can you see Patti Briggs stake Edward Cullen?

I give this a 4 of five so far--and I have two days left.

Optimistically yours,
Voss

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Con Weekend

This weekend is the weekend of SpoCon 2011.

That means I get to pretened to hob-nob with the big name authors. Exciting for me, and that's what you, the public, really cares about, so it's good for everyone. Maybe I'll actually get someone to look at something I post for once if I quote Patricia Briggs enough. Yes, I'm bitter about having no views on my blog. Sue me.

So, as the weekend progresses, you all will be seeing copious updates about this convention and the things I'm seeing, learning, and being inspired by. That means, in layman's terms, a whole lot of posts. A LOT of posts about SpoCon.

While I'll be almost completely holed up in the LIT Room (301) listening to things about worldbuilding, descriptions, brainstorming, and stealing some tips from the Novel Writing Master Class (Deby Fredericks, Patricia Briggs, John Dalmas, Jane Fancher, Kathy McCracken, and C J Cherryh on one panel), that's not all. I'm here for fun, of course, and inspiration--plus other tools for writing. Character voicing/accents and creating interesting characters for LARPing, metaphysical uses of crystals, screenwriting, and the obligatory dance performance or two--all there for fun and inspiration for writing.

So, what was my point? I can't remember at all. At any rate, though, I'll be there and you'll be hooked to a direct source--all eight of you. Mind, a goodly number of you will be there with me, but I digress.

I don't digress to anything important, but I digress,
Voss

Monday, August 8, 2011

Awkward Situations

I went to my family reunion yesterday. It was incredible, of course--everyone's cousins and their cousins and second cousins...et cetera.

However, my dear, sweet first cousin once removed, Irene, is also a writer. She confronted me with a question that, before you ever get asked, seems so simple.

Irene writes real-world, non speculative fiction. She asked me where I get the ideas.

I, of course, answered as honestly as I could--the world.

Now, in an ideal fantasy world, people would just stop the question there, but Irene is insatiably curious, so she didn't. She pointed out that these things aren't in the world.

Whoa.

That's not something I ever thought I'd have to deal with. I fumbled through with copious, confusing hand-gestures and vague answers, but I didn't know what to say, really. Now, I've posted on where to get ideas in the past, but for some reason, my inability to answer her effectively nagged at me the whole time.

So, rather than carrying on talking about where we get ideas, this is more about the lesser thought of social side of being a writer--the side that, by definition, we are bad at. Writers are nice, solitary people, normally with a streak of insecurity and agoraphobia three miles wide and deeper than the Mississippi River. That's why we choose to write--it lets us remain sort of faceless and not real people. That's why we contact people through letters, blogs, email--it doesn't involve real socializing.

So, when we have to go out with people--people that want and expect us to talk to them in an engaging manner--what are we poor people to do? No, we can't be giving in to the urge to hide under the table and only pop up momentarily to sign the ocassional book. We have to overcome. Now, I don't know about specifically writing oriented events very much, but in general, here are things that help out a lot.

1: A script. I don't mean read off of cards, I mean an internal script. Something that more or less just lays out the major points you need to cover about this, while leaving enough room that it's a little bit different.

2: You have to realize that, in a situation where you're the big writer, the reader is probably more scared than you are. Look at it this way--how absolutely terrified would you be to go up and engage Rowling, Butcher, Lem, or any other author you love in any type of conversation? That's similar to what those crowds feel.

3: People won't know what to expect, beyond how you write. If it helps, play that up. If you let yourself talk closer tot he way you write, not only will it probably be more eloquent, but it's easier to be something you're not. I don't reccomend that, necessarily, but it can help.

4: Finally, know that people that are around authors a lot are going to be fairly well aware of these little problems we tend to have with people. They can be sympathetic and, the more kindness you're receiving from the crowd, the less intimidating it will seem.

I don't know how much this will help, but hey--it couldn't hurt too much. Also, note that I didn't tack a number on the hiding under the table option--DON'T DO THAT!

Peace, love, and chicken grease,
Voss

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Guest Blogger: Frances Pauli





Today I am honored, priveleged, and damn lucky to have the wonderful Frances Pauli here as my guest blogger. Since today isn't about letting me blither and blather on, I'll turn you over to her loving care.


Thank you so much for having me over for a visit.

When Voss first suggested the topic of writing serial fiction, I was tempted to say a great many things. I intended to discuss characters, and how having a big, quirky cast does wonders for keeping the story alive, how you can switch protagonists if necessary when the current one happens to plot themselves into a corner. I planned to cover tangents, which can get us in a great deal of trouble in the novel, but serve as a gold mine of side trips and looping plotlines to fill and extend the serial author’s box of tools.
Both of these things are great points, and true. But then I remembered the grand, holy grail of episodic fiction technique. I remembered where I learned it all in the first place.
Soap Operas.
Stay with me. I know you want to bolt, and yes, they’re awful. But one would have to be incredibly stubborn—or simply stupid—to ignore the fact that here, in the afternoon drama fest, are stories that have kept an audience riveted for decades. Some of the classics have entertained generations of audiences, have spanned twenty, thirty, fifty years or more. Every day.
Do you believe you can write an episode a day for half a century and keep your audience’s attention? If you could, wouldn’t you be damned proud about it? Maybe these wicked, low-brow, fiction nightmares just might have a thing or two to teach us.
So I shuffled back through my memory. You see, I never actively watched Soaps, not even in High School when my friends were hanging on the turbulent relationships of Felicia and Frisco or if they preferred a different channel, Beau and Hope.
I turned up my nose at them all. Okay, there was a short period in my late twenties where I became mildly obsessed with Passions, but it didn’t last. And, I mean, it had witches and stuff. Sue me.
No, it wasn’t through my personal experience that I learned the mystery of the serial drama. It was by proxy. Rewind some more and my childhood play was often acted out to a backdrop of my mother’s soaps. We had Luke and Laura then. We had J.R. Ewing. I mentioned the nighttime version didn’t I?
Oh dear. An entire country joined in camaraderie to figure out Who SHOT JR? I’m not kidding. It was like the moon landing…It was, well, big. I also caught snatches of Dynasty, Falcon Crest etc. Basically, call it what you will, the nighttime serial drama is the shadier version of the afternoon Soap Opera. It has the same bones.
And when Bobby Ewing turned up NOT dead, and a whole season was written off as a dream, America let out a collective groan. Well, we can learn from others’ mistakes as well as their successes.
Hands down, the Soap Opera is the ruler of serial drama. It has what it takes. Like it or not.
I watched a documentary awhile back entitled, Never Ending Stories. It addressed the Soap Opera phenomenon and, I believe, offered superb advice to the aspiring serial author. I can’t reiterate it all here, but if you see it pass on your cable or Netflix or whatnot, spend a little time on it. I assure you, its worth the little wound to your pride. In the meantime, I will pass on a few things I picked up from it…and from a lifetime on the edge of the Soap Opera addiction.

#1 The Ground Rules. Soap Opera fans know the rules. The industry has established tropes that are reliable and comforting to the viewer. There are too many to list, but things like: once you’re dead, you can come back any time you like (surprise!), and if anyone ever disappears, is abducted, or has major surgery, when they come back they are most likely an impostor. You get the idea. Now, you don’t have to adopt the, somewhat ridiculous, tropes of the daytime drama, but you can develop your own. That could be fun as well.
#2 Bigger than Real Life. Everyone in a Soap Opera is either filthy rich or a dangerous criminal. We don’t really want to examine the reasons for that too closely, but suffice it to say that people watch these things like their life depends on it because they want to BE those characters. They want to live that life, face that danger, sleep with that…okay, we understand escapism, but the point is: extreme and exaggerated. Nobody in a Soap is ordinary. Even the housekeeper was once a porn star who killed a man and ran off pregnant with his child and is now hiding from the mob under witness protection so that she can testify against…someone. Simple? I think not. Character as caricature is the rule here.
#3 The Cliffhanger. Have you seen the end of a Soap episode? I know its hard to watch them all the way through, but if you do, you know the shot: one person’s face, horrified, wide-eyed expression, maybe an open jaw and a tiny hint of over-dramatic head shaking. They’ve just walked in on something, and it’s awful. It’s so monumentally awful, or possibly impossibly wonderful, that the camera is required to zoom in close enough to see their pores so that you can examine the emotions ravaging their face. BUT, we’re not going to tell you what they saw until tomorrow. Worse than that, we won’t tell you until almost the end of tomorrow’s episode. You know, cause we have to spend the first part recapping and building tension. Some weeks we’ll wait until Friday to do this, so you can enjoy an entire weekend of concern and speculation. Then, whammo. There it is, and probably, as that settles over you, we’ll do the whole thing again with another, bigger head jiggle to boot.
Okay, I’m poking fun here a little, but you know. A milder version of these steps will work. You can mock at will, but you can’t argue with a track record like that. And so, what began as me seriously pondering the tools of a serial author has landed me here, admitting that everything I ever needed to know, I probably learned from the Ewings.
Oh dear.
The good news is, unless you lived in a home without television—which I’ve heard is possible—you probably learned it all too. So get out there and write that Soap, I mean, Serial. That’s it.


Frances Pauli writes Speculative Fiction with Romantic tendencies. Her Urban Fantasy and Science Fiction series are available through Mundania Press, and she also publishes romance stories with Devine Destinies Her ongoing serial fiction can be found at: http://spaceslugserial.blogspot.com and more information on her works and writing at: http://francespauli.com

Thursday, August 4, 2011

To Boldly Go

Writing, and art in general, is supposed to be one thing and one thing alone--a means by which to push the boundaries of what is deemed socially normal.

Okay, that might be taking things a little bit far. Writing is about a lot of other things, but it's such a good vessel to explore beyond the confines of normalcy because it reaches people that, in general, tend to be more open. This is especially true of speculative fiction (See? We're totally awesome!). Spec fic readers are more willing to accept those things that aren't mainstream, because speculative fiction isn't "real" literature anyway (That was sarcastic, by the by.).

So, I'm going to touch on a subject that's still largely ignored in speculative fiction, for some reason.

Alternate sexuality.

Okay, I hate that term. I mean gay, lesbian, and bisexual characters in fantasy and science fiction. Now, unless I'm just totally oblivious, that isn't represented outside of speculative fiction erotica. Am I just oblivious? I'd like to think not.

I don't know why this has been ignored to this point. Statistically, one in every ten people is gay/lesbian, and that number rockets up when you include bisexuality. Doesn't it make sense that somewhere there must be someone in fantasy and sci-fi. To me, it seems like some kind of twisted, puritan morality leaking in and that shouldn't be allowed. The puritans aren't in control here for a reason--I won't start a religious debate here, but suffice it to say there's a reason they aren't supposed to be in control anymore.

Why, then, is it still so taboo to have GLBT characters in speculative fiction? I'm making a public appeal to publishers--get over it. We're here and we're queer--you might as well start dealing with it. LGBT shouldn't be confined to thinly veiled literary porn and supermarket romance side-characters.

I've said my piece,
Happy writing,
Voss

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Write What You Know

Yes, I can already feel the disturbance in the force. It happens every time a writer gives out the advice "Write what you know."

Especially spec fic writers.

We've all felt some animosity, at least, for that piece of advice. But I had a lovely epiphany about this, even though I never thought I would ever give that piece of damn advice to anyone.

Are you ready for it? I mean, this is pretty ground-breaking *snicker snicker*.

Write what you know.

*cricket cricket*

Okay, let me explain. It doesn't mean you can only write things if you're an expert on the subject. In fact, those are the last people you want writing fiction 99% of the time. You need to write with what you know and not give a rat's ass about anything else, really. That's what lends real authenticity to a work of fiction.

For example: I don't know who the manuscript belonged to, but he let a dear friend of mine look it over. She did the standard editing things, I'm sure, but she also saw that his main conflict came from giant spiders--avicularia giganticus or horribilis or something like that. It was an avicularia.

Those that have seen an avicularia or know anything about them are probably laughing or shaking your heads right now. Those that aren't, I'll let you in on the joke:

Avicularia are the least threatening, frightening species of tarantula, like, ever. They're generally docile, good as pets, and they have pink feet. I don't mean pinkish like you'd expect a spider to look, but freaking PINK.

See? Now, I know this isn't about spiders, but the point is they're cute. Not many people would have been wise to that, but those that were would have been annoyed as hell. It's like a giant cocker spaniel coming after you. They're too cute to be really frightening. The most they'll do is lick you to death.

That's writing what you know, to one extent. You can't force that information, but if you know something that can add more logc and more realism to your story, use it. I know classical music and concert instruments inside and out. I can use some of that to my advantage in my books. Another friend of mine knows puppets better than anyone I've ever met. Another one knows all about Portland, Oregon, and another friend of mine is a little self-publishing encyclopedia/dictionary. All of these things can be used to their advantage, and we all have something like that. If my father ever tried a book, I know for a fact he could do something brilliant with modern mechanics or old cars--that's the kind of thing I've had to research.

And that's the other part. Somewhere in the recent past on Frances Pauli's Blog, she has a post on following tangents. She got an entire book series out of her last one (red cross dogs) and she also knows all about this wide variety of things, all from doing the research on a subject.

You need to research things that you enjoy learning about, because something in there will stick in you little writerly brain and pop up one day. Now, I'm not the best person to be saying this, but I'l make the resolution if you all will.

Make a list of things you want to know more about--at least ten things--and go through them, looking them over and up until you know them for sure. If that means you go take a Latin dancing class, then I'll probably be right there with you, because it's something I've always been interested in. I have next to no rhythm or dancing talent, but that won't stop me from learning about it.

The last thing I can tell you is specific to speculative fiction. You know your world and its laws, so you have to write them. You have to know your world,a nd I can't stress that enough: YOU HAVE TO KNOW YOUR WORLD!!! You have to be able, at a moment's notice, to cross-reference the uses of various things in your main character's supplies as an anti-venom for a dragon bite, or understand that dimension-bending engines have to have a particular and large fuel supply that may or may not always be present. That's also writing what you know.

Off to research...something...
Voss