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Monster Movie Night!

Jin Shei Cover from sgreer
So, Godzilla.

POSSIBLE spooilers ahead, but hey, it's a monster movie, yuu kind of know how this goes, don't you? Either way, you've been warned.

In so many ways, exactly what I expected but with CGI. But nonetheless, a hugely entertaining couple of hours.

Yeah, I was rooting for the monster. Hey, he had a bad deal of it all around, did poor old Godzilla (and you know, for something that's been around for so long and taken so much punishment, he looks rather good, actually...) First we woke him up. Then we tried to fry him with nukes. Then, with all of that, comes the cherry on top with the Momma and Poppa New Monster On The Block turning up to lay waste to our planet and - er - breed (was that a moment of AFFECTION there, in the middle of ruined San Francisco, when the pair rubbed noses...?) And the human response? Oh, the usual "let's throw nukes at it!" kneejerk reaction, or the philosophical Japanese "Let them fight..."

Let's face it, humans are idiots, okay? Always were. In every one of these movies. And the guiding rule seems to be that the more authority any given human has the more of an idiot he is and la la la la la we won't listen to anyone else who thinks that what you might be doing is a not so good idea. And the reasons it's not so good an idea this time? Hey, did you miss the part where these new monsters EAT RADIATION? They, you know, FEED on it? Yeah, no, let's just throw a nuclear bomb at them. Chock full of said radiaion. No way that could go wrong. Also, humans (who DON'T feed on radiation) are kind of at ground zero here. If in fact that flash in the movie was the nuke going off then they don't have to bother scraping together the survivors of the monster fight in downtodn SF - because they'll all be kind of dead of radiation poisoning in relatively short order. So will a large swathe of the American west, actually. But eh. You know. Throw a nuke at the problem. WHy not.

The new monsters? Despite the "rubbing noses" moment, it's really hard to see them as anything other than pure malevolence. First off, they look like a mish mash of a bat, a spider, an angry wasp, and the creature from "Alien" - what's to love...? (And thesight of those egg sacs - thousands of them - just waiting to hatch... shudder. yeah.) But who knew GOdzilla was our knight in shining armor, then? You were rooting for the poor idiot. First of all there were TWO of THEM (and one of them is a mean momma protecting her nest, no less...) and only one of poor Godzilla no matter how bad-ass he is. And then - well, admittedly he does wreck the Golden Gate Bridge (but that had to happen, didn't you know? It's a given. THe bridge dies in a West Coast mosnter movie; if we had been in New York Lady Liberty would have copped it. It's the price of being an American icon, let's face it) but still he's supposedly on OUR SIDE and he's trying to get rid of the bat/spider/angrywasp things, so WHY ARE WE STILL SHOOTING AT HIM?!? Poor sod. Well at least they knew enough to cheer him when he stomps off back into the ocean after it's all done, despite the wreck of downtown San Fran that he leaves behind. (and um what happened to the othe rmonsters? Did Godzillakins eat them? I don't know if I saw him chow down, I think I just saw him rip Momma Monster's head off at some point. I hope he ate them. I hope he at least got a good meal. there can't be much out there for that beast to EAT. Maybe that's why there are so few blue whales left.)

So. Spent a couple of hours in the cinema rooting for a CGI monster.

Sometimes a girl has to take her fun where she can find it.

Go Godzilla. I think I rather like you, all other things being equal. Is there a place behind your ugly-mug ears that you like being scratched...? Let me know, if I ever run into you. I'd love to oblige.


Give us today our daily silly spam...

Jin Shei Cover from sgreer
Two messages, in quick succession.

Subject line #1: "Life is short. Have an affair."

Subject line #2: "Is your next date a criminal?"

Uh. I think I'll pass on the affair.

Oh, the *RULES*. Why didn't you say so...

Jin Shei Cover from sgreer
Seen these things before but they just cropped up again - Elmore Leonard's ten rules for writing. And they are:

1) Never open a book with the weather.

2) Avoid prologues.

3) Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.

4) Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said.”

5) Keep your exclamation points under control!

6) Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”

7) Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.

8) Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.

9) Same for places and things.

10) Leave out the parts readers tend to skip.

They're fine rules. Fine. *FOR HIM*.

My own rule, #11, is a simple one.


(yes, I know I jumped into my own mouth there. But you get my meaning.)

Let me clarify. The strengths of every writer are different, and should be allowed to shine. The weaknesses of every writer are different, and should be addressed. But telling EVERY writer not to describe a setting or not to use weather to begin a book or to eschew prologues on pain of death is just basically silly. So I"ll qualify those rules.

Opening a book with wather is JUST FINE. So olong as the weather actually has something to do with stuff. If you start with "It was a fine summer day" the rest of that sentence had better read "...when my cat was flattened by the sort of flying saucer we had learned to associate with the cool mornings of early fall." There are times that we actually remember the weather. I remember very well the weather when I was dumped by a guy who was breathlessly cruel and manipulative and who had led me on the sort of thin ice it was impossible to see until you were through it and into the dark icy water below. I remember the weather VIVIDLY because it was so utterly ludcirous that it was such a nice warm glorious day full of sunshine ON THE OUTSIDE while my heart was a block of black ice within. One could use the weather quite effectively in a story like that, dont'cha think? So there goes that rule.

Avoiding prologues is probably sound advice in certain genres. But other genres have trucked along quite happily with prologues without any harm being done whatsoever. Of course, you have to understand what prologues are FOR, and more importantly what theya re NOT for, but once you get that straight there is nothing wrong with one. As I recall, I have only ever done a prologue ONCE, in the "Changer of Days" books, and that was to set up - in as small a nutshell as I could and as a preamble to the events of the story itself - the thing that pushed my snowball-of-a-tale down its narrative hill, an event which my main character and protagonist could not possibly have been at but which was pivotal to shaping her part in this story. So yeah, thanks, I needed that prologue. And it doesn't do that book one iota of harm, sitting there. As with any rule,you have to know the reasons behind it - and once you are properly aware of what a prologue is supposed to accomplish please go ahead and write one. Especially if you don't happen to write in the same genre that Mr Leonard happens to write in - you do NOT have to be constrained by the same laws that he is.

Sometimes qualifying a particular "said" is perfectly fine, and even necessary. What you don't wand to do is qualify EVERY "said". Tell you what, take, oh, ten pages of you MS and highlight every "-ly" word you find after a dialogue attribution. If your page begins to glow in the dark, you've got a problem. But if there is a yellow bit here and there, you're. Just. Fine. As. You. Are. Yes, of course things could be improved. They can ALWAYS been improved. If you wrote "said loudly" consider "shouted", for instance - which gives the same sense but in a more active way. And yes, Mr Leonard, sometimes using a verb other than "said" is ALSO Just. Fine. Again, just don't overuse it. Use the RIGHT verb to convey the RIGHT thing and you should be doing ok with this. If you find yourself straining to find a new way of attributing dialogue you're overdoing it, period. And remember - sometimes, when you have two people talking to each other, it's perfectly fine not to have attribution behind EVERY line of dialogue. FOr pete's sake, trust your reader enough to realise that the two people in the conversation GENERALLY TAKE TURNS TO SPEAK. You can go a long way while not using ANY attribution a tall. Practise this. It may be a little harder than it looks 0 because you may have to start actually honing your writing skillls and using each character's individual voice to convey who is speaking rather than hammering your reader with "Jack said", "Jane responded", "Jack said angrily" after every line. (I do a dialogue writing class. Call me if you want to talk about it.)

Keeping exclamation points under control - that I actually agree with. They really are of limited use. If you find yourself fighting the urge to use them too frequently do yourself and your reader a favour and go and lie down until the urge goes away.

"Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.” " - well, yeah. there's that. I'd agree that you probably should avoid using "all hell broke loose". But only because it's such a gosh-darned CLICHE. And it might be perfectly fine to use it in a dialogue situation where such usage would identify the voice of a particular character perfectly. JUst keep in mind that narrative and dialogue are two very different animals.

Using slang, dialect etc. sparingly is definitely a good idea - consider it to be like salt, a little leavens the dish but too much leaves it mouthshrivelling and inedible. I remember giving up on a book entirely once because one of the characters spoke with a Geordie (northern England) accent which I found so dense and incomprehensible as rendered on the page that I simply grew tired of straining to understand and surrendered. I put down the book. It was not worth the drama. Consider your reader. Please. And be kind.

Descriptions. Oh, Mr Leonard. Sure, don't describe the character if you are the character - readers tend to see through ruses like said character staring into the mirror. And often the only reason you have to describe a character is if they are somehow different from most people surrounding them. In "Secrets of Jin Shei" I only really described one character - and that was because she was the only one with red hair and pale skin and stood out like a beacon amongst the dark-haired, ivory-skinned people of her world. Perhaps one other one, because he was uncommonly fat, which was unusual enough in that society to merit comment. Everyone else... it was safe to leave to the reader's inner eye. And better for it. But places? Really? If you're writing "Dune" you don't get to describe Arrakis? How does that work?

"Leave out the parts readers tend to skip." Now you're just being difficult. This reminds me of a phone call to tech support that I made after my husband stopped receiving email on his account - and because I am technically better at dealing with people on the phone it was my happy task (hah.) to call tech over this. I was lucky enough to get a raw novice who couldn't for the life of him deviate from the script one iota, who COULD NOT GET PAS THE IDEA that we weren't using Microsoft Outlook for our mail client, and finally, desperately, said, "I'm going to need a list of the people you aren't getting email from."

I just blinked and said, "If I am not getting email from them how woudl I know?"

By the same token, er, if people are skipping bits, how would I know? And besides, different people are practically GUARANTEED to skip different bits, and if you left out all of them you're down a novel with six words half of which are "the" or "and". (and you bet people would skip that. So - what - just don't write the novel at all...?) The writer owes the reader a decent story. That is not to say that the writer owes EVERY reader the story that THAT PARTICULAR READER might think is perfect, because that is patently impossible. So the writer writes the best story that he or she knows how. And after it is done and out there in the world... well... one hopes that not too many readers will find too many bits of the thing skippable, but it's utterly beyond your control any more and you just have to trust the story to find an audience. That is all you can do. That is all anyone can expect you to do. And trust me, readers who start skipping your stories are sooner or later going to go out and find another writer whose work they find more sympatico - and there are A LOT OF WRITERS in the world, so it is almost certain that there is one more suited to their particular taste and sensibility than you might be. But leaving out bits of your story in the hope of enticing this kind of reader to stay with you... is a ridiculous attempt at bribery and blackmail. Trust your story and your reader to find one another on a level where both have something to give. But let the reader get there. Don't do your reader's rejecting for them.

A most basic rule of writing is simply, "There are no rules".

A good story is sometimes nothing short of a miracle.

Take it, and be grateful for it.

As for the rest... yeah, it's good to know what can be improved. But don't let yourself be so boxed in by other people's "rules" that you forget how to tell a story that you wanted to tell and instead find yourself churning out stuff that you desperately hope someone will read. Standing on the side of the road with a cardboard sign saying "read my story... please" never got readers for anybody. The only thing that matters if whether - or how - any given story speaks to any given reader. And so long as you tell it - and please don't think that this means a blanket dispensation from good grammar and decent grasp of narrative structure - it will find its way.

I think that's a rule, actually.
Jin Shei Cover from sgreer
CUE FANFARE: okay. This is not the final cover art, as I understand
it, but "Random" is now available for pre-order on the publisher's
site. For those of you who wish to support an author, stake your claim now. For those of you who REALLY wish to support the author, order two - and give one to your local library, or preferably your local high school library (and tell your local high school to contact the author if they want her to talk to their kids about the book and the things that it is about.)

And tell your friends.

New Simon's Cat...

Jin Shei Cover from sgreer

And the author's cat...

SOme of you might have heard that we have recently (as in, just before New Year) adopted a half-blind ex-feral tiger-striped caramel tabby who - they say - was about 2 years old but whose antics since arriving to live at our expense make me think that they overestimated that age considerably (he's still very much kitten).

He's a very well behaved young man whose persistent efforts to play with the currently resident 10-year-old grand old lady cat have been met with constant and consistent hissy-fit resistance - but he doesn't give up. He just gives ground when yelled at and bides his time until another chance comes along.

He's also a very entertaining animal, and you just have to love this, for an author's cat. Yesterday he worried a file out of a vertical filing rack that happened to be within his reach, pulling the file almost completely out. We kind of chuckled and asked him to fill out a proper application if he wanted employment as an office assistant... and it only really occurred to me later to check on WHICH file he was so interested in.

It was a folder containing information on my curren WIP... which happens to be about Were-critters.

After I stopped laughing, I began to get a tad worried, actually.

Just how much does this cat know, how long has he known it, and what was he planning to do with the information he was trying to extract?...

And what, if anything, does he turn into when I'm not watching...?

This is him, by the way, vintage about two months ago. I need to take more pics...

blackjack CU blind side january 2014


Jin Shei Cover from sgreer
Read the full thing here.

Their conclusion:

"Midnight at Spanish Gardens is intriguing, frustrating, magical, literary, and slippery when you try to wrap your mind around it... it’s an excellent tale that defies easy classification, and a genuine overlooked treasure. "

Cool. I'll take it. [Big Happy Grin]


Aaaaaand.... drumroll...

Jin Shei Cover from sgreer
The first three books of the Worldweavers trilogy are now all out from Sky Warrior Books - Gift of the Unmage, Spellspam, and Cybermage - these three books:

That means the countdown is now on for the conclusion of the series, the never-before-seen brand now story and the grand finale of the series, "Dawn of Magic".

While you wait, catch up with the series in its new guise, re-read from the beginning, and watch this space for an announcement concerning Thea WInthrop's final bow...


Jin Shei Cover from sgreer
From my inbox (subject lines only, I'm too damn busy to go chasing these down although they might be fascinating...)

- "Hold on to her love" (guys, I'm a GIRL. Unless you think I'm a card-carrying lesbian this one is way misplaced. Do you freaking homework.)

- "Get an advanced degree in Homeland Security" - this one's particularly funny after I just read an article about a TSA agent who didn't know if District of Columbia drivers' licences were "valid US photo ID". Advanced degrees - in basic GEOGRAPHY and CIVICS! - might indeed be called for, here. But um I don't need one. Thank you ever so much.

- "No More Tears" - wasn't this last used for a baby shampoo?

- "Free E-book!" - er, thank you, but you're offering me this particular treasure from six different and equally unlikely email addresses. It is further and further away from the realm of any possibility that I will click on this with every time you slam it AGAIN into my inbox under a different email. Besides, have you seen my reading pile? If I need a free ebook, I'll ask for one...

- "You won't believe this!" - you're probably right. I don't.

- "Do you believe in angels?" - well, it's like this, probably not in the way you want me to...

(yes I was just cleaning out my inbox after a prolonged period away from home. Why do you ask...?)

And now, from the beginning...

Jin Shei Cover from sgreer
So, I went to a writers' retreat this last week(end) - well, five days, covering the weekend.

I'd heard a LOT of stuff about the Rainfoest Writers Retreat over the last couple of years. People I know went - some multiple times - and always appeared to have had a blast. So this year - even though there was an initial hiccup with registration because stuff didn't go through to where it was supposed to go through when it was supposed to go through there but it all got sorted out in the end - I decided I was going to go to the Promised Land myself.Collapse )

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October 2014

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