Friday, December 30, 2016

Anthology Co-Author Published!

Know what made today particularly awesome? A fellow author from One Thousand Words for War, Valerie Hunter, also has a story in the 2017 Young Explorer's Guide anthology, and she lists One Thousand Words for War in her bio! I was so thrilled to see that, and congratulations to Valerie for her additional publication!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Characters with Anachronistic Mindsets: Do They Have a Place in Fiction?

Parental warning:  I speak frankly about romance novels below.

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I always get nervous when I see book blurbs like this: "A 14th-century story told with a 20th-century sensibility.” 

Ugh.  I hate that!  By and large, people of the 14th century did not have the sensibility of people living in the 20th century.  Please don't give it to them!

Whether my perception is accurate or not, the above statement screams to me: "The heroine in this book will be an anachronistically modern-thinking woman, and the villains will be portrayed as period-stereotyped chauvinistic assholes!"  Granted, this is my knee-jerk reaction, and it will have to be tempered by me actually buying and reading the book in question.  I simply saw the blurb today and groaned.

The reason I am having this knee-jerk reaction is that it is, sadly, so often shown in books when the author and publisher want to make a point and care more about that than about maintaining historical accuracy and entertaining readers.  You often see this in Hollywood movies, too.  That type of movie often fails because audiences don't want to feel that they are paying to be preached to.

I fervently hope that none of the red flags popping up in my mind will be true for the above novel.  I believe that, if you're going to write a historical novel, you should be very well versed in the attitudes of the day and understanding of them, at least for the length of the book.  Yes, it is quite possible that at least a few people back in the 14th century held to more progressive beliefs than the norm.  If they had not, we would not have had the Protestant Reformation, for example.  But whether the Church was Catholic or Protestant, 14th century attitudes about morality, particularly female morality, were anything but those of the 20th century.  The same is true of ecological concerns and attitudes toward people of certain ethnicities or sexual orientations.  I hope the author of the above book kept that in mind.

I also wonder if some of my objection to finding characters with anachronistic mindsets stems from the fact that I read science fiction, in which it is not uncommon to read something from the point of view of an alien.  The more alien such a character's thought process is, the more interesting.  Frankly, exploring the point of view of a character from an earlier time period is quite similar to looking at the mind of someone who is sort of alien.   If the aliens in SF novels thought exactly the way we do, there would be little point in making them aliens, right?

All of that said, there are times when I have enjoyed slightly anachronistic character attitudes in books.  Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael novels, for instance, always intrigued me with the way Brother Cadfael would figure out ways using the technology and logic available in his time to do things that we know to do in the 21st century to find out who committed a murder.  

In the romance genre, author Eloisa James regularly deals with topics which used to be taboo in the industry when I was a teenager--but I like that she acknowledges them and has her characters deal with them--painful intercourse, oral sex, homosexuality, and so forth.  These are issues that modern people deal with, too, and it is refreshing to see that her heroines tend to be equal partners in their lovemaking.  Unfortunately, ignorance of sex, particularly among well-bred Victorian girls, was something that too many of them did experience before marriage, and I think that is tragic. 

I believe a definite and subtle balancing act is required between writing characters whom readers can relate to and making them mostly accurate examples of their time and culture.  Would most of us want to read a story about a Regency or Victorian-era girl who truly is ignorant of what goes on in a bedroom and who believes all manner of bizarre and period rumors and superstitions she's been told, or would we want to toss the book away in disgust because we can't believe any girl of eighteen could be that ignorant?  It's an interesting question to me.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Latest Short Story Submissions

Early, early this morning I submitted my completed story for the Snape Showcase.  I also just now submitted a short story, "The Eyes of Death," to the anthology, The Death of All Things, which is being published by Zombies Need Brains LLC.  Here is a link to the ZNB Kickstarter for The Death of All Things and two other anthologies to be released next year.

Now, to start work on more stories.

Friday, December 9, 2016

On the Importance of Boyfriends in YA Fiction

Sorry for the pompous post title.  If I can think of something better, I'll change it. 

Today I came across a YA book blurb.  "X was having a rotten year at school until she met Y."

On the face of it, this doesn't seem terribly objectionable.  But I got to thinking that it is pretty much the same premise that is behind the Twilight books, at least the first one.  To me, there is something wrong when we regard our lives as awful or, even worse, meaningless, unless there's a romantic interest present.  Maybe this sort of plot device is used so often and is so profitable because it truly does reflect the way some teenagers feel.  I would rather see books being written that teach teenagers to be morre assertive and more self-sufficient.  Yes, I know there's peer pressure.  Yes, I know you feel left out if everyone you know has a romantic interest, and you don't.  I get that.  The loneliness is real. 

But I would like to see the occasional book written in which having a romantic interest doesn't magically improve the main character's life.  I'd rather see books in which the main character's own accomplishments improve his or her life.  What kind of person is going to be interested in someone who has no accomplishments or who goes around just being depressed and dependent on others for his or her happiness?

Okay, I mean aside from vampire guys named Edward Cullen.  :)

I would rather see YA books in which the main character first finds some niche to excel in and then finds a romantic interest.  I want to see more books in which a romantic interest is simply the icing on an awesome cake, rather than the cake itself.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Snape Showcase!

I am participating in the 2016 Snape Showcase.  This is a writing event celebrating the wonderfulness that is Severus Snape for all of us who appreciate the complexity and depths of his character as written by J. K. Rowling.

Yes, in case you didn't know it, I am a shameless Snape fan.  If you think he is the most wonderful thing since sliced bread, too, consider participating in this event!

Though the Showcase is hosted on LiveJournal, you need not be a member of LiveJournal to participate.

Snape Showcase [info]snapecase: Celebrating Severus Snape throughout his ages!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

What I Learned from Darkover

Author's note:  In part, this post will be understandable only by people who have read Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover novels. 

Last Friday night, I got nostalgic about a Darkover role-playing game that I used to write in on LiveJournal.  The game is long defunct now, but it was set among the Cadet guards of Thendara, the capital city of Darkover.  I played/wrote the character of a second-year cadet who was part of the MacAran family. Last night, I created a new version of that character's father because I have been itching to write about him for some time but had no excuse to.  Per the Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust, it is illegal to write even unpublished Darkover fiction without a contract from them, so I will need to create my own setting for him, as the Darkover anthologies are open to submissions by invitation only.  That might explain, at least in part, why the RPGs have died.

During the course of writing his new character sheet, I did some reading and refreshing of my memory of certain aspects of Darkover, in particular its map.  Apparently, while J. R. R. Tolkien incorporated an exhaustive degree of detail in his worldbuilding and map of Middle-Earth, Bradley was a different style of writer.  According to Thorsten Renk, a fan who invested a lot of time, energy, and research into constructing a map of Darkover, Bradley had a general idea of where things were, but distances were not consistent, and she placed things as they were needed for her stories.  Edelweiss might be north of Armida in one book and south of it an another, for example.  Though I distinctly remember seeing a map in which the Domain of Ridenow and the Drytowns are located in the west, Renk places them in the east.  Because I know the extensive amount of research he conducted, I am trusting Renk's map.

I learned two things from this:

1.  Create a map of your world, and know the general distances between places so that you can be consistent with them from book to book.  Know how long it takes to travel between these places using different modes of transportation, in different weather, and in different seasons.
2.  Account for changes not only across distance but also across time--in different seasons as well as over the course of centuries, if your series extends that long.

Yes, this ought to be obvious, but until you develop a story enough to need to know your setting through various centuries, it is not something you necessarily think about--at least, I didn't.  While I have several ideas for novels, I am concentrating on short stories right now.  Thinking about centuries-long changes in my novels' settings is not foremost in my mind at this moment--but it is something I will now be keeping in mind as I work on them.  It's nice to be able to plan the work I will need to do.

The other thing that my recent thinking about Darkover has taught me is something that I actually realized back when I read the short story, "A Man of Impulse," but I did not articulate it to myself until this weekend.  The general idea is, "A corpse flower can tell you it's a rose all it wants to, but that doesn't remove its stench."  If you write a character who abuses people, you can write a story from that character's point of view.  That character can even, as is proverbially said of Hitler, think of him or herself as a good person.  But in the end, it's going to come across as abusersplaining.  It might be a good story, but the reader will still know the character to be the type of person he or she truly is.  In the case of "A Man of Impulse," there is a deeper layer to the story and to the character Dyan Ardais that makes that story horrifying to me and tragic beyond what it would have been in the hands of any other author.  Bradley is a writer I mourn for but am also sickened by.

Gee, how do you continue a blog post after a statement like that?  Erm.  Awkward.

Anyway--Yes, I believe I will write about Garydd MacAran (name to be changed to protect the guilty) in Ravenwood.  I'm not sure when it will appear, but it is now on my radar.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Story Submission Update

Not a whole lot to tell.  "An Arduous and Beautiful Duty" was declined by Phobos Magazine.  I'll tweak it some and send it back out.

I submitted "Oh, Shoot!" to Morgen Bailey's 100-Word short story competition for August.  Given the prompt for this month, there just was no other story in my heart to tell.  Members of my family, alas, will know what the title refers to.  I miss you, Aunt Frances.  You were an awesome woman, and one hundred words were not nearly enough to tell the world how awesome you were.

Aside from that, I have been working on "The Witch of Braighe."

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Food Blog!

This weekend I decided to do something I have wanted to do for a long time.  I have started a food blog called Bus Rides to Flavorville.  The restaurants featured in it can all be accessed by Houston's bus and light rail system.  That is literally the only criterion--that and me having an opinion about the place, one way or the other.

I don't distinguish between chains and family-owned businesses.  I don't care if it's farm-to-table or whatever.  One of the places I plan to mention is the Houston Greek Festival, which isn't even a restaurant, at all.  But it is the best place I know of to find delicious, home-made Greek food.  I love going every year, and it's reachable by bus, so it is on the list.

My only sorrow is that S. W. Tookie's cannot be on the list.  It is the best burger joint I've ever been to, and I grew up loving it.  But it is way down on Highway 146, and Metro doesn't go there.  *cries*

I have only written the introductory post for this blog.  I've been to a restaurant that I plan to review, but I want to take some time to do the review up right before I post it.

Friday, August 12, 2016

July 2016 Morgen Bailey Competition

This evening, I was excited to open my email and learn that I placed second in the July 2016 100-Word Flash Fiction Competition run by British author Morgen Bailey. She runs these every month, and I have been entering mostly consistently since January. This month my submission, "A Lively Imagination" was chosen from among 23 flash fiction stories to be in the top three. You can read it here.

Each month has its own prompt, which can be integral to or superficial to the story. You have from the first day of the month to the last day of the month to submit a 100-word story that is somehow related to the prompt. Prizes include a choice between certain of the online writing courses Ms. Bailey offers, or a story critique.

Try it out; it's fun!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Update as of 07/29/2016

Story submissions so far this month: 3

1. "A Lively Imagination" to Morgen Bailey - Pending.
2. "Choosing Chains" to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction - Declined.
3. "An Arduous and Beautiful Duty" - Phobos Magazine - Pending.

I have gotten at least one reason as to why "Choosing Chains" keeps getting declined: It begins in a tavern, which is where all good (and bad) thinly-disguised D&D campaign stories start, with the assembly of the party. Doing this was a completely newb mistake.

Now, I am well aware that editors don't want to see thinly-disguised D&D campaign stories. It honestly never occurred to me that the story starting in a tavern might be a problem. Tarran lives in a tiny riverside fishing village. Its tavern is where people hang out--either there or at the well on laundry day. Every year on his sister's birthday, Tarran goes to the tavern to grieve, because he is always otherwise obligated on the anniversary of her death each year. He goes, and he drinks a pitcher of their strongest alcohol. It never helps him to forget, and he goes home once he's done drinking the contents.

It just never occurred to me that the location where he does this would be considered so much of a cliche that the mere use of it in the beginning scene of a story might turn anyone off. I had thought people might be turned off because the story is dark, bitter, sad, and horrific at various places. I also think it's funny in places, but that's sick, twisted me.

So one of my upcoming projects will be to redesign the story with the beginning in a more original location. I have no idea if that will help, but it certainly can't hurt. Many thanks to C. C. Finlay for pointing this out to me, or I would never have even thought of it.

* * *

"An Arduous and Beautiful Duty" is what I finally decided to call my Fomorian story that takes place in the waters of the Minch, off the west coast of Scotland. Hey, at least it's a more original setting! I am still not entirely satisfied with this story, but deadline was too close, and I will be busy this weekend, so I wanted to get it out. There are always other places I can send it if Phobos declines it. I haven't mentioned this story by name previously in my blog because I didn't have a title for it, and I try to categorize my stories by title so I can look up posts in Blogspot easily.

* * *

I read in an interview of him in Deep Magic that Brandon Sanderson often writes the endings to his stories first.

You all might not know this, but Sanderson is the god before whom I bow down and cry out, "I'm not worthy!" That used to be Marion Zimmer Bradley, but, well...ahem. Anyway, Sanderson's Mistborn novels blew me away with how good they are and with how he uses a common fiction trope to make the reader think one thing is supposed to happen when, in fact, the complete opposite is the case. Seriously--read Mistborn. You will never see the plot twist coming until it smacks you in the forehead with the force of a sledgehammer. I am still in awe. Mistborn is the best novel I have ever read.

Part of the difficulty I have with writing stories to deadlines is in figuring out what the story is that I want to tell. I do a plot outline based on the submission criteria for whatever market I'm submitting to, but very often it doesn't satisfy me. I have always thought that I needed a road map, but maybe what I really need is to see the solution so I can work backward from there. So I'm going to assign myself the task of writing three or four endings a week, using story ideas I want to write about, and see if those satisfy me (and potential editors) better. I like that this will force me to think very hard and in some detail from the outset about my characters and their motivations.

Have any of you ever tried this technique? How has it worked for you? Has it helped?

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Progress on the Fomorian Story, A Submission, and Amazon Author Page

I now have an author page at Amazon.

I'm still working on the Fomorian story. I read more about Fomorians. There's not a whole lot to learn, and information varies wildly. Are they hideously deformed giants, or are they small, dark-haired people? I decided to do something completely different with them and went the sea-demon route, whole-hog.

What I'm finding more fascinating is reading about the genetic ancestry of the Irish, who have recently been found to be descended from Basques and from people of northern Spain and eastern Europe, presumably the Milesians mentioned in the Book of Invasions.

I decided it was time to work on tension and stakes in the story, so that's what I'm doing now. I want a good, satisfying ending.

Regarding the recycling of my character Kiernan: It looks like the chief of the Blue Men is not exactly Kiernan MacAskill of Braighe. I was surprised that that happened. It's fun when the story or the characters surprise you.

Submissions: "Choosing Chains" to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Recycling a Story

One of the two stories I submitted for the Witches and Dragons anthology was not accepted, so I now need to find a different market for it--or recycle it.  I've decided to recycle.  I am going to use elements from "The Witch of Braighe" in this new story, which I plan to submit to Phobos Magazine for their Deep, Black Sea issue.

A challenge I will face is that the word limit is 2500 words, but the story idea, which will involve a volley of rhyming couplets, might need more wordage than that.

I am also going to reuse a character.  My idea is, what if a character in "The Witch of Braighe" had made a different choice?  What if this character had valued slightly different things and been angrier?  I'd like to explore that other choice path.

I will say that it helped me very much that Phobos gave clear and vivid examples of the kinds of stories its editors want.  Sometimes, I feel like I'm in a guessing game when it comes to figuring out the types of stories desired, so having this clarity is something I appreciate.

*  *  *

Submissions Today:  "A Lively Imagination" to Morgen Bailey.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Story Accepted: "Weight"

Today I received notice that my short story, "Weight" has been accepted for the CBAY Books anthology, Witches and Dragons, which is part of their Fairy Tale Villains Reimagined series.  The book is scheduled for publication in June 2017.  This will be my second short story publication with them, and I am delighted that they accepted my story!

I also wrote a story last night called, "A Lively Imagination," which I will submit to Morgen Bailey's blog.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Unicorn Story in the Works

At one time I wrote a story about a unicorn for CBAY Books' Stepmothers and the Big, Bad Wolf anthology with the intent of writing about the metaphorical wolf that is fear, rather than a literal wolf in my story.  Turned out, however, that the bulk of the stories they got took the idea literally, so my unicorn story would have looked odd in that grouping, and the story was declined.

When people say 'wolf,' they actually mean 'wolf.'  Who knew?  :)

I now find myself faced with the prospect of writing another unicorn story that will in fact deal with the same theme (fear) as the first one.  It will be set in the modern world, though.  I am looking forward to this.  Now, I think, it's time to do some research.

Story Setting

I've spent some time over the last day or so reading Strange Little Girls.  I'm finding that Sirens Call seems to prefer--at least, for that anthology--stories set in the modern day but with the injection of some unique element of weirdness.  So I believe I will have to re-think what I was planning.  That's okay.  I have to be adaptable to what a particular market wants.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

I've Moved!

Greetings, friends and readers!

Welcome to my new blog on Blogspot/Blogger  I decided I really did not like the version of this that I have on Facebook and wanted something that was more like a journal.  I find that I am too easily sucked into reading Facebook, because there is never and end to it; I just keep scrolling and scrolling because there is always something new, fascinating, and entertaining to read or comment on--and I can't resist novelty.  When I read Facebook, I do not have an off button.  I also think that I will tend to write longer posts here than I typically have on the Facebook version of this blog.  Lastly, I prefer Blogger because it gives me the ability to categorize my posts and to format my text, a feature absent on Facebook.

I need a format in which I can write a post, communicate with my readers, and not be tempted to look at anything else.  This is it.

At the moment, this blog is no-frills; I might add pictures and things later.  I will migrate posts from my Facebook page to here so that I can keep a record, and I will back-date them as they are dated in Facebook.  At some point, if I can figure out how, I will delete the Renee Whittington Facebook page.

My intention is to post here at least once a week.

UPDATE:  I have deleted the Renee Whittington page on Facebook.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Story Work for Sirens Call Piece

I spent this evening doing more background work on the story I am writing for Sirens Call. I decided that I needed to understand the setting and my character's particular subculture very well before I started writing the story. I want to have a clear and vivid feel for it in my head.

But now the story is saying to me, "You could make a novel out of this." Yeah. Maybe for NaNoWriMo, not sooner.

I believe I will begin writing it tomorrow night, as I don't want to get so wrapped up in the worldbuilding and the cult my protagonist belongs to that I ignore the real point of the story.
I have also bought a copy of Strange Little Girls, which is a previous anthology that Sirens Call published recently. I want to get a feel for the kinds of stories and settings that they are looking for.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Working on Story for 'Alone with Your Fear'

Tonight's writing involved working out the background for a story I will submit to Sirens Call later this summer. Tentative title is 'Andrion's Crown.' It will be submitted for the Alone with Your Fear anthology.

I was going to write a story for their Strange Little Girls anthology last year, but I never could work up a good idea.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Recent Submissions

Recent short story submissions:

"Weight" to CBAY Books.
"The Witch of Braighe" to CBAY Books.
"Stavros" to Flash Fiction Online.

One hundred words was too short for "Stavros."  It works a lot better at 762 words.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Honesty in Writing

You learn fascinating things while writing--such as that there is a distinct difference between writing that a character feels something because that is what you want him to feel, and writing a character feeling something that he truly does feel.

Always be honest. It will require more work as you dig deep into yourself to figure out why the character feels what he feels, but the understanding you gain will be very much worth it.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

You can now Pre-Order One Thousand Words for War!

One Thousand Words for War is now available for pre-order! It will be released on May 1, 2016. My short story, "Strands of Grass," appears in it with eighteen other excellent stories.

I hope you will buy it, enjoy it when it comes out, and tell all of your friends how awesome it is--if you think it is awesome! :)  Please write a review, because we would like to know what you think.…/…/ref=sr_1_1…

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Submission: "Stavros"

Today I submitted "Stavros," a 100-word micro-fiction story, to the Morgen Bailey blog monthly competition.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Publication Status: One Thousand Words for War

Today I received, reviewed, and responded to the final galley proofs for One Thousand Words for War. It goes to the printer's later this month! Hurray!

Thursday, January 14, 2016