Monday, October 17, 2016

Politics in fantasy

Game of Thrones. The Farseer trilogy (Robin Hobb). The Mistborn trilogy (Brandon Sanderson). The Inheritance Trilogy (N.K. Jemisin). 
I could this as a modern palace...

All these books have a power void, a question of regal inheritance and who owns the right to the throne. Something about royalty intrigues us, secret princes and princesses and power struggles being a trope that never actually goes out of fashion. 

Which, from the viewpoint of living in a democracy with no acknowledged aristocracy or royalty, seems a bit strange. I suppose it's not much different from the Billionaire craze: there's that underlying desire to be incredibly wealthy, and incredibly important. And "Who should rule" isn't just limited to kings and queens, but also to political factions--the Rebellion in Star Wars, the Weyr leaders in McCaffrey's books, the rebels in the Hunger Games. 

I guess people just like politics in fantasy. It even shows up in stories I'd call epic fantasy instead of political fantasy. Lord of the Rings has Aragorn. The Belgariad has the rightful ruler Garion. 

Which political plotlines in fantasy stories have you enjoyed the most? What do you love about them?

Friday, October 14, 2016

Coffee, Tea, or Klah

"I am bearable only with tea."--Morning
You've probably guessed I'm a fan of tea by now. Morning has a hard time happening without it.

Lots of people swear by coffee, too (those brave souls). The intent of waking up via caffeine is a cultural icon, and although I know people who drink neither, and some who drink one or both but neither in the morning, what we think of when we hear coffee or tea is "morning palliative."

Of course the tea plant and the coffee bean aren't plausible in every fantasy world. Different fantasy worlds have substitutes, such as the klah in Pern. And tisanes are a staple of many worlds, with hot mint tea or other herbal teas being staples (and also often as medicines). Of course the tea plant seems to be more widely spread across the fantasy universes.

What are your favorite fantasy substitutes for tea or coffee? Have you ever tried a recipe meant to replicate the taste?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Consequences in RPGs

Consequences... I remember one game of Dungeons and Dragons where we accidentally nearly destroyed the world, and the only reason we didn't was because the rogue carrying the loot from previous sessions had connected the dots that we were being manipulated by the bad guy, and so abandoned us and ran off to enjoy a nice vacation on the beach instead of joining us for the final boss fight. Meanwhile, we, assuming her super-rogue skills were active and thus that was why we couldn't see her with us, had no idea she wasn't there... Until the boss tried to summon the magic stones to allow him access to the world-destroying magic.

You know, much like how Link brings the Sacred Stones and accidentally allows Ganondorf into the Temple of Time. Except that in this scenario, the rogue looted the party and ran away, and for once it was a good thing, because Ganon didn't get his Triforce.

I'm really enjoying the new King's Quest series because the consequences of the previous chapters are holding up in the current ones. Yes, okay, the wives are basically interchangeable, but there are a few differences between them, and you're reminded in each chapter of some of the choices you made previously. Mr. Fancycakes will never forgive us for leaving him to die, you know.

There are a lot of RPG video games where you're so railroaded that your actions never make a long-term difference. Or the choices are things like "I can't equip this weapon because I never got it." Games where you don't see the effects of the changes you make at all. So it's always a delight to make a lasting change for me. Even if it's a minor one.

To me, the best dungeon masters are the ones who are able to bring in your characters' decisions and make them relevant later in the game. But of course that's tough to do, and easier in a time-consuming self-designed campaign than a pre-designed one.

Have you ever made your characters' decisions matter in a pre-made d20 game? How did you do it, and how did it affect the game?

Friday, October 7, 2016

Publishing Industry News

This week's publishing news and industry blogs post covers 9/24-10/6/16. It's been a quiet couple of weeks, all told. Guess everyone's starting to clear their plates with NaNoWriMo on the horizon?

Publishing News

The National Book Awards finalists are revealed.

Penguin Random House unveils a sci-fi/fantasy website.

Industry Blogs

Agent Janet Reid answers questions and offers advice. Does your book's political affiliation hurt your changes of being published? (Not really; agents and readers are pretty diverse too; it's about the writing.) Tired of waiting for a response from an agent; should you just self-publish after a few months? (Why are you only querying one agent? Also, agents have long timelines; if you want self-publish then do so, but not because the agent is responding quickly.)

Agent Nephele Tempest shares Friday links for 9/30 and 9/23.

On the Editor's Blog, mistakes that pull readers out of the story. Never break the suspension of disbelief!

At the Futuristic, Fantasy, and Paranormal blog, how to dump the info dump.

On QueryTracker, an explanation of show don't tell: Don't explain. Just make it happen. Also, how to handle a critique.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Stories That End Well?

My apologies for missing not one, but two posts last week! Unexpected things that needed to be taken care of.

But is it the right end of
the path?
One thing that bugs me about a lot of series is the lack of endings. Endings are very satisfying, that which completes a story, and without a good one, you're left begging Fox for season two of Firefly for a couple of decades or more. I mean, you feel like there should be more, because it's incomplete. I like a good series myself, but when the series never ends, never really completes a season, and never has a good wrap-up point... well, unless you're writing Doctor Who, it bothers me. (Doctor Who should never end. Also, it does provide endings in the form of completing seasons, and ending companions, and Doctors.)

The alternative poor ending is the over-ending, like when you've watched a movie and you think it's over, and then there's another scene and it's clearly the ending, no wait there's more, and really now's the--nope, another scene.

It's a balancing act to write a good ending, in other words. Something that wraps up a story well, and caps it off. I'm fond of Branden Sanderson's Mistborn series ending, as did Madoka Magica (the anime). I guess the best way to perfect an ending is to practice, write a few, cut them down until they're better, and repeat. Also read a lot of good books that really nail the ending.

What stories have you read, watched, or played that got the ending right?

Friday, September 23, 2016

Publishing Industry News

This week's publishing news and industry blogs post covers 9/5-9/23/2016.

Publishing News

Google Play Books offers a new Discover feature to help readers find new books they'll love.

Publishers Weekly posts about current publishing industry top executive salaries, and the salaries of the industry as whole. Also, a look at how publishers plan to deal with the new overtime laws coming into effect in December, with the first most common choice being to limit time worked to 40 hours for affected employees who currently have a tendency to work over 40 hours, and second choice most common choice being to pay overtime.

Industry Blogs

On QueryTracker, a great blog on how to get and give advice about manuscripts--be nice in your critiques, and thank critiquers. Also a blog on using story structure as a tool for revising, and advice on writing well-rounded characters.

On The Editor's Blog, a nice link digest to various grammar posts. Also, a tipsheet on setting up auto-hyphenation for print works.

Agent Nephele Tempest posts a writing links blog for 9/16.

Agent Kristin Nelson with story openings to avoid (part 4--talking heads).

Agent Jessica Faust warns to beware when writing a trilogy or a series that readers waiting a year between books aren't lost by the time they pick up the next one.

Agent Janet Reid offers advice. She clarifies the difference between a platform and a website: volume kicks the website into a platform. She answers a question about why new agents are, in fact, worth considering signing with. And she explains what to look for in comp titles.

At Books & Such Literary agency, a reminder that when authors miss deadlines in traditional publishing, it costs people money.

Author Kristine Kathryn Rusch points out some cool opportunities for indie writers that have developed for writers since 2009.

What other major publishing news have you encountered in the past two weeks?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Best time for scary movies?

When do you watch horror?

I'll admit it, as much as I enjoy horror movies, they scare me, and I often prefer the mid-day approach so I can sleep well at night. Nice bright sunlight for a few hours after, thanks, and I'll sleep much better.

Though if I'm with a group of people, a stormy night is good, too. As long as I can hang out with friends for a while afterward.

It's funny how we like to scare ourselves. And how people who like horror movies have different preferences for how they scare themselves. I'm a strictly psychological thriller, that's my thing--not into slasher movies at all. Yet that's not everyone's taste.

I like roller coasters.

Some people like sky-diving.

Others hate all of the above, but will sit for hours with a book of terrifying true crime stories.

People are weird. And we like to scare ourselves. So what's the best time to scare yourself? And what's your scare preference?