5 Things Friday: Favorite Authors

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Sparth

Pinning down five writers is pretty difficult (so I add a few more.) These are my current top five, but they may change over time.

5. Ann Leckie – Ann has only written five novels so far, but broke out of the chute to win the Hugo on her first release, Ancillary Justice. It started a trilogy, with Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy. She followed that with Provenance, which is a standalone in the same universe. Then she broke from SF with a fantasy story, The Raven Tower. All of them are wonderful. She has a unique voice and is on my auto-buy list.

4. Hannu Rajaniemi – Huge brain on this Finnish mathematician PhD and Quantum Physics Thinktank leader. He wrote one of the best debut novels of all time with The Quantum Thief. He followed it up with Fractal Prince and Causal Angel. Probably the best posthuman stories written thus far. It is wildly imaginative and an immensely brilliant trilogy. I wrote about it here. He then broke from science fiction with a standalone novel called Summerland. I would call it weird fiction, as it deals with the newly dead and an alternate history 1938 and is set as a spy thriller. It was not my favorite, but it was brilliant in its own way. I look forward eagerly to his next release.

3. Rosina Lippi writing as Sara Donati – She holds a PhD in Linguistics from Princeton and was a tenured professor for twelve years at the University of Michigan. She writes fiction and non-fiction, but Sara Donati is her fiction pen name and she wrote a six book historical fiction series beginning with Into the Wilderness. It carries on where James Fenimore Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans left off, but introduces new characters then follows them through the end of the Battle of New Orleans. These are absolutely fantastic. I learned a lot. They are chock full of historical moments, adventure, and a dollop of romance. I wrote about it here. She followed this series with another that carries on with a young woman trying to make it as a doctor in the big city in the 1800s. It begins with The Gilded Hour and continues with Where the Light Enters, which comes out next month.

2. Caroline Cherry writing as C. J. Cherryh – SFWA Grand Master. She has written more than 80 books, two of which won the Hugo award, Downbelow Station and Cyteen. Otherwise she is probably best known for her prolific Foreigner series. She writes fantasy and science fiction and her Alliance-Union series is my all-time favorite. She writes smart, personal stories that really analyze human psychology and motivation. Fabulous world building and memorable characters are her hallmark. She also was instrumental in getting me on track early in my writing career with kindness and good advice.

1. William Gibson – He created the new subgenre cyberpunk with his debut, Neuromancer. It won the Hugo, Nebula and PKD awards. He was born and raised in the US but lives in Vancouver, Canada now. He has written eleven novels and co-wrote one with Bruce Sterling. He started his career by promoting futuristic cybernetic enhancement and artificial intelligence. He coined “cyberspace” for the propagation of Virtual Reality. His first two trilogies were in this theme, the Sprawl and Bridge trilogies. He followed these with the near future Blue Ant trilogy. His writing gets better with every novel. He has a knack for seeing below the surface and then creating a world and character to carry his prescient vision forward. He has been my favorite writer for more than half my life and I don’t see it changing any time soon. His next book, Agency, comes out in January. I think I may go back and reread all of them before the new one comes out.

 

Honorable mention:

Max Barry – Australian author of Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He stuff is generally aimed at the lunacy of the corporate world. Lexicon was a departure and was an outstanding novel. I wrote about it here. He has a new book coming out in 2020 called Providence. Biting satire is his forte. I have read everything he has written and will continue to do so.

Peter Watts – I came to Canadian Peter Watts late. I have only read three of his novels so far, but he blows me away every time. His is brilliantly intelligent and writes in a way that exposes that in a cool way. He doesn’t write down to the reader, but it is not so high concept that a novice can’t follow along. His stuff is hard SF. The science is impeccable and the prose match. He has written 24 novels so far, with some of these being tie-ins for other worlds. Freeze-frame Revolution is his latest, which I read. He is best known for Blindsight, which should have won the Hugo, and Echopraxia. I have read both of these as well. I have a lot of catching up to do with his novels.

 

Who are your favorites? I really want to hear about them.

5 Things Friday: My 5 Favorite Books So Far

I am starting something new. 5 Things Friday. I hope to post every Friday with a new 5 things. I’m starting with a short list of my five favorite books of all time. Up until now at least. It’s difficult to stop at five but I like the alliteration. I’m not doing Fifty things. That would take weeks to write each one. Here we go!

5. Into the Wilderness – Sara Donati – This carries on the story after the James Fenimore Cooper novels, the Leatherstocking Tales, Last of the Mohicans ring a bell? I really adored these as a young man. Set in the New York wilderness in 1792, Into the Wilderness is the story of a headstrong English teacher and the son of a legendary frontiersman. I loved this entire series. A little romance, a lot of action, and a great mix of fact and fiction. I learned some history reading this series. My book review is here.

4. Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll – I have loved this book for a very long time. The highly imaginative world, the crazy characters, and the sing-songy nature of the dialogue is marvelous, and practically perfect in every way. The original artwork by John Tenniel is amazing as well and fits perfectly with the off-kilter view of the world. Continue reading “5 Things Friday: My 5 Favorite Books So Far”

1977 – Star Wars Impact

Jane Ann McLachlan had this great idea for a blog challenge for the month of October to do one day for each of the first 25 years of your life.  This is the 14th installment. 

In 1977 the Dow closes at 831
Inflation was at 6.5%
Average cost of a new house: $49,300
Average income: $15,000, this is the 1st year it’s gone down in a very long time
Gasoline: $0.65 a gallon
Movie ticket: $1.50

C.J. Cherryh wins the Campbell for best new SF writer.

President Carter pardons draft evaders.

Radio Shack releases the TRS-80.  I managed to get my hands on one years later.  Two months later the Apple II goes on sale.

Star Wars is released in May.

Elvis does his last concert in Indianapolis June 26th. Elvis dies at Graceland at the age of 42.

Voyager 1 launches.

Bill Rogers wins the NYC Marathon.  Long distance running is becoming a fad.

The first three nodes of ARPAnet are connected.  The Internet is born.

What a great year for pop culture.
Movies: Star Wars, Wizards, Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind, Saturday Night Fever, A Star is Born, Capricorn One
TV: Roots, Three’s Company, Soap, The New Mickey Mouse Club, The Love Boat, ChiPs, The Man from Atlantis
Music: Rumors by Fleetwood Mac released, The Sex Pistols release Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols, The Clash release their first album, The Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack goes nuts and Disco takes over the world (briefly) but not until 1978.

Elvis dies at Graceland at the age of 42.

Farrah Fawcett posters.  I had one on my wall. 
Digital watches. Skateboarding is making a comeback.

In 1977 I had hair down to my shoulders and was skateboarding and playing board games, like APBA Baseball, Football and Golf, Strat-o-matic Baseball, and Negamco Basketball and Golf. I even invented my own boxing and golf game.  I started playing golf with my dad that year and quit playing baseball.  

But the huge game changer was Star Wars.  I distinctly remember going downtown to Charleston watch it at the Kearse Theater and the line went all the way around the block.  Unheard of back then.  I knew kids at school that had seen it a dozen times.  My mom let us get the soundtrack.  It was the first movie soundtrack I ever owned.  I became obsessed with Science Fiction and wanted to be Han Solo.  I started buying Starlog and comics and Omni Magazine when it came out the following year. I started reading everything I could get my hands on.  It literally changed my life.  I would not be a pilot today if not for that movie.  I am still a huge Star Wars fan and even though I was deployed in 1999, when Episode 1 came out, I managed to see it in Germany. I still love Science Fiction as well and plan on writing in that genre for the foreseeable future.

Clear Ether!

Wired for Story

 

Chuck Wendig interviewed Lisa Cron this week for his blog Terribleminds and she gave us her take on developing story.  Another great find for interviews by Mr. Wendig, he rarely disappoints.  Lisa has a very fresh take on the importance of STORY and how it relates to the human brain.  She has a new book out called Wired for Story, and I can’t wait to read it.  She is a big time producer for Showtime and Court TV, a writer and also teaches a writing course at UCLA.  She has spent the last ten years researching the connection between neuroscience and how the brain relates to stories.  It’s quite fascinating and illuminating, allowing us to learn techniques that will make your story click with the reader.  They can’t help themselves, the brain is hard wired for receiving stories and if we can strike the right chord it will resonate within the readers mind.
            On Lisa’s blog she touched on why books that get panned by critiques can still sell at amazing rates.  It answers the question as to why books like 50 Shades of Gray can sell millions of books.  I remember picking up The Hunger Games, because my wife and daughter love it, and reading the first couple of pages and saying to myself, the prose just aren’t all that, but next thing I knew I was 100 pages in and couldn’t put it down.  Stephanie Myers Twilight books have been criticized for not having elaborate prose also, but the one thing all of these books have in common is they tell a great story and in a way that touches those chords in the mind.
            The concept has already had an impact on my writing.  I think it helped me frame the true story for my WIP.  CJ Cherryh had a recent rant on her facebook page (5 July) about the difference between plot and story and now that I have this new frame of reference I can see that she was saying basically the same thing.  The plot is not what drives the story.  The plot is just a tool to get the characters to create the story you are trying to tell.  The plot elements are moveable and malleable. 
When I deal with libraries and such, people who appreciate books, I often get asked questions about the creation of ‘plot’ — in the sense of the sort of book reports we used to have to give in school. These usually amounted to a recitation of what happened in the book. And these always confused heck out of me—I started writing at 10. I had been wrestling with ‘plot’ and ‘theme’ and this sort of thing on an intimate level for (at my young age) years, and the definitions of those terms that I had to memorize for tests just didn’t ring true with the way I did things. There was a wrongness in the basic assumptions that was bugging the life out of me.// Took me twenty years to figure what WAS bothering me—and to this day I really can’t define those terms, because they may shift with every type of book—but I came to a very basic conclusion: there IS no such thing as ‘plot’ in the sense most of these analyses deal with it. Plot is NOT the sequence of things that happen in the book. Those are the ‘things that happen in the book,’ and they actually are the most replaceable, ephemeral, rearrangeable things about the book. If you could lean over my shoulder while I work, you’d see me move things about, put events in different order, yank something I don’t want, put in something similar but ‘else’, and in sort, work with the causality and the chain of events, but these are not the plot. They are gears that need to mesh correctly, these are pieces that need to operate smoothly together—to PLAY OFF the ‘real Plot’ of the book, which is much more of a three-dimensional diagram of the lines of tension between the characters. You arrange events to tweak these lines of tension and cause a chain reaction, and figuring out how to do that may require you to change the events, change the people involved, change how the news travels, change the order of things—you see what I mean? The Real Plot is that 3-d constellation of characters and alliances and relationships, and these Actions are nothing but a set of triggers that could be ANY trigger. Finding the most logical order of triggers is head-work. Theme? I’m not sure what the hell that is. I think it’s the answer to that basic question a writer may want to write down on paper and pin to the wall above his desk: What’s this book about, anyway? And very often there’s no one word answer, or there is—say—like Loyalty; but that doesn’t say much. It takes the whole book to say what there is to say about that item, the way you see it, the way it affects the Real Plot, the feeling it generates. That’s why my teachers sometimes ticked me ‘wrong’ about certain answers, when I’d really thought long and hard about the answer and didn’t agree with the expected answer. That’s because when you start pushing those buttons on my personal console, you just may come up with a different book. Different answers. You may now realize that I’ve just answered that persistent groaner of a question “Where do you get your ideas?” —with the observation that ideas are no problem, so long as a writer has a pulse rate—but that Execution, ie, getting those ideas to assume a good constellation of tensions and then tweaking those lines of force to create a natural cascade of reactions leading to a satisfactory ending—that, THAT is the hard part.
                                                                                     –CJ Cherryh
 
Keeping STORY in the forefront of my mind as I revise the WIP is really helping me focus on the things that can stay and the things that need to go.   It also helped me refocus my Query letter.  I know what the essence of the book is about and was able to better articulate it. Here is the core of my new Query Letter:
 
What does an immortal bajillionaire have to complain about?  That’s what Remie La Jeunesse keeps reminding himself.  It’s how he’s managed to get by the least few decades, but he’s reached the end of the line.  He’s young by Nemesi standards, at 786, but he can’t find happiness anymore.  Weary of the death and despair he’s suffered for the last several centuries, Remie is ready to end his life, but he has one last obligation to fulfill.  He’s just received the call that the plan he’s spent 240 years meticulously planning is finally ready to trigger.  Will carrying out the plan be his demise or will it reignite his passions?
 
Anneliese Trahan is a damn good pilot and a rising star for Nobloquy, the military arm of Nollevelle Corporation.  Her career path seemed to be on the fast track after leaving the comfort and security of her family trade ship, but the intervention of a past lover derails her plans and puts her on a collision course with a man determined to destroy Nollevelle and any chance at a captaincy.  Will she be the one to end his life or save his soul?
At any rate, I ordered Wired for Story and should have it by the end of the week.  I’m maybe a 5th of the way through my 3rd rewrite and hopefully it will be ready for submission soon.
Clear Ether!

Week in Review

I’m a little late getting this up due to MLK Day.  You might think that would give me more time, but I usually find a way to expand my time wasting to fill the available time alloted.  It was a fairly productive week writingwise.  I wrote 6191 words this week for a total of 93106, and am edging up on the climax.  Seems like I say that every week.  I think I’ll get through it this week.  In fact if I push I think I can finish the first draft this week, two weeks at the outside.

I posted a little vignette about how I Suck @writing which seemed to be well received, thanks to all who commented!

I also updated my Query Letter and got some feedback.  I think it’s pretty close.  Close enough to shelve until I polish the manuscript.

Some other tidbits from the week:

Charlie Stross blogged this, he is brilliant as usual:

http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2011/01/looking-under-the-street-lamp-.html#more

Ran across this short story by @MaryRobinette Kowal http://bit.ly/flXBY0 quite awesome!

I heard this on NPR this week and liked it:

“We must see the error in our own truth and the truth in our opponent’s error.” — Reinhold Niebuhr

The next thing to tackle after the WIP is finished it to do a synopsis.  I found this website which does a fine job of walking you though how to do a thorough job http://www.writing-world.com/publish/synopsis.shtml

i09 posted this – the most complete map of the night sky so far http://io9.com/5730972/

 

Clear Ether!