Saturday, August 27, 2016

The words of dancing

Tight shoulders or loose shoulders, pounding feet or twirling grace, carefully structured rhythms or spontaneous flows of motion—there are as many types of dance as there are cultures in the world.

A celebratory dance floor
How the dancers move, and who dances, is one way writers and media-makers help create a setting. We have stereotypes as viewers as to who does what kind of dance. Barn dance, to cheerful music, and everyone stomps their way through songs? You're in a rustic setting. Sweeping skirts of the wealthy, and gentle twirls, with carefully orchestrated motions, to an actual orchestra? You're in a court, glitz and glamour to the max. Loose shoulders, young dancers, with a dark lighting and throbbing music? You're in a modern, trendy, edgy world.

Where the courtiers go to conspire between dance sets
Dances are where people meet, where they conspire in public places to avoid being overheard, where they court one another or lay traps for vengeful heartbreak. It's a well-known convention that conspirators on the dance floor will never be overheard, and if anyone slips out between dance sets to "cool off," conspiracy is afoot. And everyone suspects a chase scene from a club in a paranormal world. Dark elves, as everyone knows, are rock addicts who would rule the dive bars if they wound up in them.

Writers use dances to set a tone, to create a mood. The music is light and airy, or dark and throbbing, or a cascading crescendo. Visual media makers use the dance floor to create visual art to the same effect.

What kinds of dancing show up in your favorite worlds? And how does it influence the story?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Warning Signs

In good fiction, foreshadowing natural disasters with warning signs is a great way to add a layer of realism to the story. Real natural disasters often have warning signs.

Pompeii in 2016
In many disaster movies, warning signs are often just ignored or covered up (often by uppity or greedy politicians) until the hero shows up to warn everyone. But that's always seemed like a stretch to me, and makes it hard to suspend disbelief: a more realistic approach is simply that either the signs are seen too late, or not understood.

Back in AD 79, when Mount Vesuvius erupted over Pompeii, the people had no idea what a volcano was. There were many signs, a drawn-out horror of minor disasters stacking on top of each other and no one actually knowing what they meant. Earthquakes had rattled the land for nearly two decades before Vesuvius erupted. They were so common, as noted by Pliny the Younger, that they were considered not a cause for concern. And while many people did leave the area, others focused on constant rebuilding, or came to study the events.

Of course, among the other hallmarks of bad disaster movies are probably-doomed, adrenaline romances, and bad science so bad it has less chemistry than the forced romances. And let's be completely honest: I like bad disaster movies; their awfulness is part of the appeal.

But disasters show up in fiction from historical to fantasy, and good writers can foreshadow them in with warning signs. Even science fiction (and its often non-natural disasters) can warn readers of things to come. The trick is framing the events from the characters' points of view: "It happens all the time" might be a explanation of constant earthquakes, or perhaps rumors of distant giants could explain the shaking ground. An obelisk with ancient carvings, including some that are warnings, could be mistaken for artwork or an ancient war. Old high-water mark statues could be mistaken for ancient temples.

What fiction have you seen that makes use of disasters, and does it do foreshadow them well? Or does it stretch your suspension of disbelief a little too far?

Friday, August 19, 2016

Publishing Industry News

Since I have a rather backlog of weeks to cover, due to a little marriage-honeymoon-adjustment hiatus, this week's publishing news link digest will be limited to 3 sources (Publishers Weekly, Galleycat, and Writer Beware) for 2 months' worth of links.

Publishers Weekly:

The Book Industry Environmental Council issues a report on the sustainability of the industry, and finds there continues to be room for improvement, as publishers try to increase their sustainability but encounter hurdles such as low availability of recycled paper.

Barnes and Nobles fires its CEO. Therefore the current chairman is postponing retirement until a replacement is found.

In the Georgia State University e-reserves case, the judge rejects further attempts from the publisher to refresh the case and push it further, and also affirms the school's right to be compensated for legal fees by the plaintiff.

Last May a lawsuit was filed against Simon & Schuster for failing to adequately pay royalties on digital works; this suit has been dropped as S&S never published the digital versions of the books. The plaintiffs plan to sue the Wiley instead.

Hastings Entertainment files for bankruptcy and plans to close all its stores by October, and its assets go to Hilco Merchant Resources and Gordon Brothers (who also handled the Borders demise).

A bill is introduced to the US House of Representatives that aims to help individual copyright owners pursue federal copyright actions through a tribunal.

HarperCollins redesigns its website, with features for direct selling among the changes.

Sisters in Crime, an organization for women crime fiction writers, writes and releases a report on diversity within its ranks, and plans to use the results to improve.

The online writing and reading community Wattpad now offers a program that will give writers the option to place ads between the chapters of works, allowing the writer to earn money any time a readers views the ad, (and now there will be ads in books).

Pokemon is bringing a sales boom to bookstores, since a number of bookstores happen to be Pokestops or Gyms, and therefore attracting customers.


All those credits from the $400 million e-book price fixing case should be either credited to customers or in the process thereof, so check your accounts for credits.

Barnes & Noble begins to offer self-published books in stores, for qualified authors.

The Expert Editor creates an infographic called "The science behind writing drunk and editing sober." And, uh, Barnes & Noble will soon be there to help you out with that.

Lee & Low books surveys the publishing industry, including publishers and review journals, and publishes a report on diversity. It's still problematically low.

Researchers look at whether reading is linked to a longer lifespan. There does seem to be a correlation.

Writer Beware:

Month9Books, a publisher of YA and MG fiction, reverts rights to many authors and reduces its list. There have also been historical problems with nonpayment and author complaints. The owner addresses concerns in an interview with Writer Beware, and expresses a positive outlook for the future.

Strauss looks at termination fees and offers an example in the form of Sky Warrior Books on how those fees can be used as retaliation against authors.

WriteIndia launched a contest, but then changed the terms and conditions midway through the contest; although it was legal to do so, Strauss points out it was not a particularly fair thing to do.

Tate Publishing, a publishing company that although possessed of an A rating by the BBB has numerous complaints against it, is sued by Xerox.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Formula for Success?

Building off things that already exist, and that people already do or want to do--is that a formula for success?

Jennette's Pier in Nags Head, NC, has 4 Pokestops and
is also a great place to watch the sunset.
Pokemon Go builds off going out and walking around, going to popular places, even going to restaurants and places people like to hang out. All things people do already. Most of the gamers I know, in fact, also enjoy things like hiking and eating good food and hanging out with friends in nice areas.

Some of the largest collections of Pokestops I've seen (admittedly I've only been playing a couple of weeks) have been in places like malls and parks and designated loitering areas. There's even a Yelp feature to find restaurants near Pokestops. So it's no effort at all to play the game, since these are things we're already doing anyway. It just adds an extra motivation to keep going on that last, tired mile. Or something else to talk about as you play boardgames on a warm summer night outside the coffee shop.

It makes me wonder if that's part of what has made the game so successful. It builds off nostalgia, yes, but it also incorporates an excuse to do things people already want to do.

Of course the game wasn't the first one to do that. Ingress was hugely popular for the same reasons, and yet it wasn't anywhere near as well known. So nostalgia and possibly other things, like levels of interactivity and the amount of dedication needed, may play a part of it.

Do you see more phone games following this path? What do you think is the main component of Pokemon Go's success?

Friday, August 12, 2016

What I learned about editing from crafting

I made my first bead-loom bracelet at seven years old, courtesy of a bead loom Christmas gift. Turns out I liked jewelry making, because I've been doing it on and off since, though only as a hobby. 

Naturally, this lead to me making my own wedding jewelry. But there's a thing about crafting: it takes a while to learn the skills, and even when you've learned them, projects may need remaking. Often many times. 

Design #3 (when I started recording
my different re-makes)

Design #4. Flowers didn't lay right.

Design #5. Remade this one 3 times
to get the center flower to sit right.
Finally concluded that I liked it,
but it wasn't what I wanted. 

Design #6.Remade several times to get
the charm to hang right. Flowers hand-
sewn into metal backings. But finally,
it was the form I was looking for.

Adjusted length of necklace to match
dress neckline. Fixed earrings to
hang correctly--center of balance off.
Finally, ready to go!
It took several months before I had a jewelry set I was satisfied with. First I found beads I liked and decided on the charm I wanted to use--much like coming up with an essential idea. But putting it together, I constantly found that it just wasn't quite right yet. It didn't hang right, or I couldn't make the charm fit on the necklace, or it just didn't make me happy. So I rewrote redesigned it. We'll call this 'developmental edits.'

And when I did finally find a form I was satisfied with, I still had to adjust it. Create longer earrings so they would hang correctly instead of dangling downwards; make it longer to better fit the neckline; adjust the strings so that instead of sending 3 beaded strands through a single set of large clear filler beads, each strand had its own set of small clear beads. Line editing.

And then there's the finishing touches: tucking in the threads, gluing down threads that can't be tucked, painting over threads so they're less noticeable, making sure wires aren't poking out. Let's call that proof-reading.

The thing about crafting is that it isn't a one-step process. The product isn't created into its finished state: you have to re-shape, or sand and polish, or tuck in loose threads. You always have multiple steps in the process.

Nor do you expect to begin perfect. It takes experience to learn how which types of wires act which way, and how to crimp a crimp bead without breaking it, and how to approximate how many beads to add to get the right desired length.

But many beginning writers become disappointed that writing fiction is not a first-try feat. Yes, it takes practice, because it's different from classroom writing or office writing. It takes editing. Sometimes it takes reflowing the entire story. Sometimes it requires reflowing the story multiple times. That's normal. Even people who outline rigorously sometimes find that they have to add whole scenes, or remove whole characters from an entire book.

Because writing is a craft. And crafts are many-step processes. And chances are, your first piece is not going to be perfect--it may take several tries before you write a story that you can sell.

But when you're done, when you've made lots of pieces and know what you want to write, when all the strings are glued and all the wires tucked, you'll have something pretty. So keep at it. And don't be afraid to edit.

(Photographer: Jim Colman)

Monday, August 8, 2016

Plane Cancellations and Adventure

The second-to-last day of our honeymoon, my husband and I discovered the Air France strike. Which is to say, our flight home had been canceled.

Ravello, Italy:
Almost everyone who has flown has at some point or another dealt with plane delays, but this was my first outright cancellation. Luckily I'd taken an extra day of vacation from work to recover from jetlag, so we had some flexibility getting home. And hey, extra time in paradise: we weren't complaining!

DH undertook the effort of getting us re-routed, and--with 3 hours of phone calls, including time spent trying to get through--managed to get us on a flight the day after our original flight, going through Munich and New York instead of a one-layover straight to NC. A bit hectic, but we'd be getting home.

Here is where I shall note to any intrepid travelers: if you plan to fly out of Italy, make sure your following layover has an extra hour or so built in beyond the minimum you think you'll need. Let's just say Italy does things on its own time, and as the kind staff at the Munich airport helped us hurtle through twenty minutes late on an already tight connection, we got more than a few knowing winks and nods. "Every day, those Italian flights..." may have been heard at one point.

Jetting home
The bright side is that we got to the plane just in time, and they even kindly put our baggage back on the plane for us. Of course, they'd already given away our seats, but this was to our benefit, as we got upgraded to premium economy. That extra knee room makes a huge difference on a 9-hour flight.

And when we got off the plane, they offered each disembarking passenger on the plane a chocolate. German chocolate lives up to its reputation. We even managed to get through customs and onto our next plane in plenty of time!

The long story short is that everything worked out well, people in airports will try their best to help you as long as you're patient and polite, and that it's a good idea to give yourself an extra day for 'jetlag recovery'... you might just wind up spending it getting home.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Back from Vacation

After a very lovely vacation, I have returned! How lovely was it? Well...

Let's just say it well and truly was the best vacation I've ever taken. ;)

Now that the Dear Husband and I are back, things begin to return to normal. Which is to say, unpacking, house cleaning, laundry, and the day job. I have the strangest feeling of being in an denouement, or perhaps the skipped scenes between the books, because the adventure has really just begun.

Are there any wedding scenes from stories you've read or watched that you particularly loved? What about real wedding stories?