Monthly Archives: August 2012

Gen Con Recap

Maybe not so much a recap as a brief note before I collapse from exhaustion and start the recovery process.  The convention was fantastic, but one of the highlights for me this year was the whole Foreshadows experience.  Big thanks go out to rock star brothers Jeff and John LaSala, Brian Matthews, Matt, Ruth and Jessica, Eytan, Talon Dunning, Ed Greenwood, Ari Marmell, and everyone I’m forgetting, everyone who stopped by the signings or to chat about the anthology or pose in the booth in their costumes.  Meeting everyone, sharing in your energy and enthusiasm for games and fiction and art and music–it’s everything that I love about Gen Con.

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Top ten reasons conventions and workshops are like college

10. You have a schedule and you attend everything that’s required, but there’s always that one thing you mean to get to just … don’t. Usually because …

9. You hang out and talk with your friends for hours about the important things: your shared passions, life, that stupid thing you did in high school, and who you would rather be: Jason Bourne or James Bond.

8. You have a mound of work to do and you pull a few late nights to get it all done before the deadline.

7. Copious amounts of alcohol is involved. If there’s a dirty secret of the writing community, it’s that we are populated with drinkers. Actually, that’s not a secret so much as a given.

6. You make plans to go out later in the ten seconds it takes to stop and talk to someone you know.

5. Pizza.

4. There’s no such thing as a “bedtime.” It’s more like “passing out from exhaustion.”

3. Viruses spread like the plague.

2. You find your tribe.

1. Time moves faster than normal and even though you’re overworked and exhausted, you never want this to end.

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Worlds are complicated

I’m ramping up for the next novel, which I’m figuring to start sometime in September. As part of the world building, I’ve been drawing out some maps.

This is one of my favorite parts of world building. I always loved the maps you found at the start of big, door-stopping fantasy novels, and I used to make up my own when I was a kid. Then I made a lot more as a gamer, drawing out dungeons, cities and continents. Writing gives me a new excuse for making fake atlases.

The thing is, I want those fake maps to be somewhat realistic. When I see desert and jungle and taiga all jumbled together on a map, it bugs me. More than giant fire breathing lizards. So when I lay out my maps, I try to make sure that the geography at least looks like it will work. Who wants an unbelievable fantasy world?

While laboring at this, trying to figure out prevailing winds and rain-shadows and such, I happened to read this article on boing boing. It’s about how the Amazon rain forest has pretty crappy soil, and for the jungle to exist there, it needs a constant influx of nutrient rich soil. Which it gets from Africa. Millions of tons of mineral rich dust from the Sahara are picked up every year by the wind and blown across the Atlantic. Enough of it lands in South America to fertilize the jungle and make the Amazon possible.

I have to say, that seems completely unrealistic.

Which means that whatever world I design will necessarily be completely wrong, because there is no way it will be complicated enough, or weird enough, to match reality.

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Convention bound

My convention schedule feels packed this year. First up is Gen Con, this weekend. It’s a gaming con, and I’m not a gamer (I want to be, in a world where I have an extra three days every week), but they run a set of writing panels that was a lot of fun last year. Well, of course the fun part was hanging out with the other writers. I’m looking forward to seeing folks again.

Then there’s Worldcon, which is in Chicago so I felt obliged. I signed up for the writer’s workshop kind of randomly, and got the other two people’s stories to crit yesterday. That will be fun. Honestly, it’s just nice to have something definite on my schedule so I know I will have at least one hour where people will have to talk to me. And where I can’t just hide in a corner and listen. (I like cons, but they’re full of people.) Plus I get to room with people I don’t see very often, and it seems like everyone I know is going. I’m sure we’ll bump into each other in the halls. It’s a small con, right?

Then, after a long relaxing con-free break, World Fantasy. Conveniently located in my in-laws’ town, so it’ll be combined with a family vacation (though I will have to work for part of it, but that’s better than not going). I went to World Fantasy when it was in Madison, and all I remember is that I went to a bunch of readings rather than panels. Otherwise it blurs with my memories of Wiscon. I will be looking forward to it once the first two cons are out of the way. Up til now I’ve done very little thinking about it.

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Theme Music Part 3

Count me in as someone who almost always listens to music while writing.  Unless I’m proofing, in which case I have to have silence.  Go figure.  But yeah, sometimes it’s a specific set of songs for a certain book or just whatever band I happen to be obsessed with at the time I’m working on a project.  The Unbroken Chain series, specifically the combat scenes, were almost all written to the “Scorponok” track of the Transformers movie soundtrack.  It works great for chain fighting, at least in my head.  Ilvani’s scenes in The Darker Road were written to Sia because I love her voice.  There’s a quality in it that reminds me of Ilvani’s character.

For general background music, I love movie soundtracks and music sites like X-ray Dog Music.  X-ray Dog does instrumentals for trailers for movies like Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows and tv series like Game of Thrones.  Basically anytime you need a soaring heroic theme or a pulse-pounding action sequence, you can find what you’re looking for.  I love clicking around and listening to their samplers.

I suspect that whatever project I happen to be working on this fall will be written to the new Mumford & Sons album because I cannot wait to get my hot little hands on that music.  🙂

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Theme Music

Following up on Kelly’s post from yesterday.

First off, let me point out that you’re doing it wrong. You have to listen to music when writing. How else are you going to block out the people chatting in the coffee shop around you, the old guy hacking up a lung in the library, or the kids as they tear apart the house behind you?

Or maybe those are just my problems.

Anyway, I always listen to music when I write. Even in those rare moments when I’m at home alone. I’m used to it now, and it feels strange to write without it. I don’t do the soundtrack thing though– too much work. I just have my ipod loaded up with a big mix of songs and listen to that. Everything from Florence + The Machine to MC Frontalot, Rob Zombie to Suzanne Vega.

I do, however, think of theme songs for my books. You know, the music they’ll play over the credits when it gets made into a blockbuster.

Here’s my current theme songs–

Chosen Wings– Learning to Fly by Pink Floyd

Little Dutch Girl– Bring Me to Life by Evanescence

All the Girls of Chicago– Zombie by The Cranberries

What are your themes? Because you guys do this too, right? Right?

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Set the scene to music

You know what I wish I did? Make soundtracks for my books. Lots of folks I know make ’em–they fire up the same playlist every time they write or have certain songs they listen to while writing a particular POV character, that sort of thing. They use the music as sort of a muse to help them imagine and shape their stories. It’s part of their process.

And I just don’t. It’s one of those ideas that I think is so cool but I just never seem to get around to doing it.

Do I listen to music when I write? Sure. Most of the time I don’t need the background noise, but if I’m having a rough session and can’t get out of my own way long enough to get a meaningful amount of words on the page, putting on some tunes helps. While I don’t use the music to shape a narrative or to help me find a character’s voice, I find it occupies my brain enough to allow the words to flow. For the most part I stick with movie soundtracks, especially instrumental-heavy ones, since music with words distracts me. Sometimes when I’m writing an action scene I’ll throw on The Last Samurai soundtrack. Every once in a while the Duplicity soundtrack finds its way into the mix, as does The Social Network and Batman Begins.

But mostly, I write to silence. Or some sort of sports game playing in the other room.

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