Saturday, January 14, 2006

This is very cool.

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Not What I Want To Hear

Sagittarius: '06 says you are not in charge. This is a time when others design your fate, and there is little you can do but accept that. Of course you can run away to some foreign land, or climb into some ashram for the next two years, but you'll miss the lesson. You might also miss the fabulous work product that they are leading you toward.

Link from goblintastic.

Decisions, Decisions

Over heard on a recent program about the Bible Code: "Even if there's an all-knowing God who knows everything we're going to do doesn't mean we have to do it." Huh???

Leaving aside the whole thorny issue of an omniscient and omnipotent God, free will is a concept that is easy for us to understand, yet so very hard to put into practice. Except for autonomic bodily functions, everything we do is based on choices we make. Everything. This is the hard part.

I choose to eat. I could choose not to. Lots of people have done it in the past. Some have died from it. That was their choice. I could choose not to work, not to pay the bills; I could choose to go on a murder spree 0r run naked through the streets (shudder). We all feel like we are being held hostage by forces beyond our control sometimes, some of us a lot of the time, but that is an illusion we choose to hold on to. It's easier than taking responsibility for ourselves and our choices.

That's really what free will is all about, isn't it? Responsibility. Nobody becomes a serial killer because they were abused as children. That's bullshit. Serial killers choose to do what they do. They could also choose to walk away from their past and be decent people. It's easier for them to choose to follow the downward path and blame somebody else for everything they do.

We all say "I have to write. I don't have any choice." Well, yeah, we do. We could choose not to write and accept our own responsibility for the consequences of that choice. For most of us, it's easier to write. Insanity is hard. Trust me on this.

People who live their lives as victims choose to do so. Even if they never gave the matter a conscious thought, their actions and attitudes are choices. Each and every one of us has the responsibility to ourselves and to the world at large to be aware of our choices, to make the best choices we can, and to accept the consequences. Wake up to the possibilities in your life, choose your path consciously and with malice aforethought, change your mind whenever you want to. That's free will. That's the privilege of being human.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Trust and Betrayal

For any writer of dark fiction or anything that depends on suspense, trust and betrayal are 2 of the most essential tools available. Every writer knows about the necessity of getting the reader's trust. Coleridge's "willing suspension of disbelief" depends on that trust. The reader must feel comfortable with the story, enough so to lay aside worries and distractions and place himself into the writ er's hands. Stephen King is a master at this. His books start with normal characters in a normal world, a world we feel comfortable in and are willing to fall into. Then he unleashes the monsters.

That's part of the betrayal. Only part of it? Oh, yes. For the danger to be real to the reader, the writer has to make the reader believes that he has placed himself into the hands of a madman and that nobody and nothing is safe. In Tamara Siler Jones's Threads of Malice, there is a scene early on that drives home the point that the danger is very real. There is also a scene later in the book that calls the safety of all the characters into question, a point where she puts fear for the characters into the reader's heart. Richard Laymon was also very good at this.

Establishing rapport with readers is hard. Very hard. It's one of the first things that distinguishes a good writer from the rest. Turning around and betraying the trust you have worked so hard to build is even harder. This is one reason why good horror fiction is so hard to find. A lot of people write horror, but not many have the guts to push the reader off the cliff. I think the reason for that is that, in order to do so, the writer must first jump off the cliff himself. That's what is really hard.

You cannot writer good horror and feel safe at the same time. It's just not possible. If you're not on the verge of tears (or actually weeping) and twitching at every tiny noise, your story is going to leave the reader felling flat and dissatisfied. I realize that this is the biggest reason I have so many unfinished stories lying around. When it comes time to jump off the cliff, I start looking for and easier way down, and the story dies. I realized earlier today what "What Dreams May Come" needs in order to come to a conclusion. I'm not sure I have the strength to face that. Nevertheless, I have to. If I don't, that will be one of those roads not taken that lead to regret and unhappiness. If I close my eyes and get a running start...

Monday, January 09, 2006

It's Here! It's Here!

The long-anticipated Character Creation Clinic by Holly Lisle is now available for purchase. At $9.95, it's a real bargain. I'm on page 34 right now and already have gotten my money's worth. You can use the link in the sidebar to order. While you're there, sign up as an affiliate and earn a little mad money.