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I recently re-posted a story of mine on the site, called ‘When Ellie Found Out‘. I had posted it before, as a prequel episode to the first season of my series called nine2five, which I had originally posted as a series of standalone episodes. When I decided to gather all the chapters in one place, I decided to append them to WEFO rather than create a new file, which I now think was a mistake. The funny thing is, that even though it’s a reposted story, I’m still getting comments on it, from people who didn’t see it before, or who just like to comment. Some of those comments take the form of, “This is so much better than what they did on the show”, which is a comment I got fairly often.

What they did on the show (in this particular case) was separate the leads, i.e., take a romantically-involved pair and place them apart, either physically, emotionally, or both, so that their struggles to be reunited will fuel the story for as long as the storyteller can make it. (What I did in WEFO, which was prone to backstory and exposition, was tell about how they got married, so that no one would separate them.) As story-telling mechanisms go, separation of the leads has a lot to recommend it, otherwise they wouldn’t use it so often as a short-cut to ramp up the intensity of the drama, which is where the problems arise.

Tropes like this one, or others like ‘endangered children’, or any of a number of forms of ‘intolerant ideological fanaticism’, are like story drugs, artificial stimulants that keep a story moving but without any real story in them. They are, in effect, pure drama, with no other story elements to speak of. What ends up happening is what you’d normally expect to happen when someone takes stimulants without food, the story keeps going and going until one day it keels over dead. I watched the first episode of season 2 of Glee and was immediately repulsed by the blatant self-sabotage of all the lead characters, which they would no doubt spend the rest of the season trying to repair. The last episode of season 1 of Newsroom did it for me, with all sorts of romantic partners making all sorts of wrong decisions. Tom Clancy used to use them a lot, but at least in his stories they weren’t critical elements, so the stories didn’t die from them.

They aren’t always drugs, of course. If the separation of the leads or the endangerment of the child are built up to with proper character and story logic behind them, then they’re perfectly fine mechanisms. In the canon fiction I was revising, the leads were separated very blatantly and artificially, and the show suffered almost immediately as a result. Many addicts of the first two seasons stopped watching halfway though the first episode of the third, as I did with Glee. Worse, when the showrunners realized how much they’d botched things, they went too far in the other direction, creating a full season of feel-good episodes to counter the previous season of angsty episodes, a heady dose of too-little-too-late, in my opinion. (I eventually separated them in my story as well, but only after a season and a half of development, first his and then hers, and a plot twist that made the separation logical, necessary, and most important, temporary.)

It’s very important to be wary of tropes. They combine story-logic with storyteller logic, which is why they’re useful, but they should never be used in such a way that the the telling of the story trumps the story itself (unless that’s the point of the story, in which case have fun). In my opinion, authors should be invisible in their stories, while using a story drug to force it into a preferred path is as diametrically opposed to ‘invisible’ as it’s possible for an author to be.


In a few months (2 months to be precise, Feb. 1 of next year), my new novel, St. Martin’s Moon, will finally make its first appearance to a grateful world.  It occurs to me that perhaps I should start thinking about considering the possibility of figuring out how to let people know about this momentous event.

Or I could just skip all that and do it now, but I’ll take a little sideways step first.

I have been a little distracted lately.  I’ve discovered a number of programs in various libraries and have been catching up on shows that I like.  I recently discovered Burn Notice this way, as well as finding seasons of Castle. I even discovered that a TV movie I’d seen, Witchblade, had been made into a series and put on DVD.  The problem is that these are library items, so they have to be watched within the loan period. I’ve spent the last several weeks plowing through all these episodes and enjoying them all hugely, but I haven’t been updating my website the way I should.

But it occurred to us that this might itself be something to put on the website.  Stories are stories, after all, and it might interest someone who is a fan of, say, Burn Notice, to see what kind of fantasy or paranormal novel would be written by someone who also likes a spy drama like that one.  They do have a lot in common. All of my books feature a central figure who operates mostly without oversight, trying to do the things he thinks are right.  They are all character-centered stories.  I think my hero Joseph Marquand would get along just fine with MichaelWesten.  Just about the only thing Marquand doesn’t do is voice-over to the audience some arcana of the operator’s trade.

So I’m thinking what I can do is some series of blog posts on the subject of my favorite stories, going into some detail as to exactly why they are my favorite stories. ‘Stories’ will be taken in the widest possible sense, including books, movies, TV shows, comics, etc. I love looking for connections like these and I hope other people will too. I’d love to learn of new stories I haven’t yet seen, as well.

Care to join me?

That’s right, today’s post is about feedback.

I just filled out a survey form today for the hotel we stayed at while we were in Chicago for the Printer’s Row Lit Festival.  I filled out a similar one in February when we stayed at a different hotel in a different city for a different festival.  It was very helpful that time.  We got bumped from the rooms we asked for, and the room I got had a list of defects a mile long to it.  So I listed them.  Somehow the price of the room dropped by a considerable amount.  Guess somebody checked.  Maybe the last person to stay in that room didn’t fill out his survey.

But from an authorial standpoint feedback is important as well.  I know I love to get comments on my work, especially when they’re positive.  I even like to get comments on my blog posts.  I can tell you right now, there is no bigger enthusiasm killer in any business than to put your work out there and get the famous cricket sound effect in response.

On a negative level, feedback is even more important.  Editors do that for a living, after all, but so do book reviewers.  I remember my first negative review, which seemed a bit over the top for my taste.  The author seemed to be enjoying the mockery.  But there was a point in there that was actually valid, and when I got around to re-editing the text I believe I removed it on my own, simply because of his comment.  I decided he was right, although not necessaily for the right reasons.  My first editor decided to simply remove a few pages of text without asking, a big no-no.   But when I did my own re-edit, I decided she was right, although she was quite wrong to simply remove them.   My friend Bryn has a lot to say on this topic too.

Back when I was eagerly awaiting the publication of Unbinding the Stone, I also discovered a novel by one of my favorite authors, Tanya Huff, called Summon the Keeper.  I loved it (which is why I just put a link there, on her behalf), and since I was thinking how I’d like to have my readers tell me they loved my books, I decided to take my own advice and tell her what I thought of her book.  Which was a good decision, since she eventually agreed to give me a quote for my book, which in my opinion is one of the best quotes I’ve ever seen on any book, not that I make a habit of checking quotes on books.  I put her wonderful quote, and all the other quotes I receive, on my own website,

Drop me a line, tell me what you think.

Unbinding the Stone

A Warrior Made

A Warrior Made

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St. Martin’s Moon

St. Martin's Moon

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Chasing His Own Tale

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Struck By Inspiration

Struck By Inspiration

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Steampunk Santa

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Bite Deep

Christmas among the vampires!

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Cyber-pirates. Sort of.

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Off the Map

Reality TV...without the Reality!

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