Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Magic Trap

Follow the steampunk adventures of technomancer Ember Quatermain and occultist Peter Styles as they investigate a strange explosion. Click here to go to the FREE webcomic.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Strike a (Cover) Pose

New promo image for “The Avengers” which would be awesome if only Black Widow wasn’t in a ridiculous and impractical “look at my ass” pose. It just seems unfair that everyone else gets to be heroic and she’s just “Ohai! Pin-Up!” >_<
Avenger's promo poster, with Black Widow in the dreaded pose.

Parody by Kevin Bolk

I’m doing a panel at Penguicon this weekend (Saturday April 28th) on the sexualizing of women and men on book covers.
Check out Jim Hines’wonderfully hilarious posts on this topic. also just did a recent post: Hey Everyone - Stop Taking This Picture.
Come on out and discuss this trend.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Senyphine - Amazing Artist

I have the honor, along with Stewart Sternberg, of working with this talented artist on an upcoming project. Check out Senyphine's online gallery. It will blow you away!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Psychotherapy and Writing Fiction

Image: Ambro /
In real life, I have a real job that is miles away from writing. I’m a psychologist. A neuropsychologist, actually. And while my practice tends to focus on assessment and diagnosis of neuropsychological difficulties such as learning disabilities, Autism, developmental disabilities, acquired brain injury, etc. I’m also trained in cognitive behavioral therapy. It’s not really my forte, but I do it on occasion.

I was reading a novel in the paranormal romance genre when a thought struck me. Now, maybe I’m biased because of my job, but as I read through it seemed to me that the female protagonist had an awful lot of inner dialogue going on that consisted of negative thoughts. This got me thinking about cognitive therapy and the human experience in general.

In cognitive therapy the theory is (according to Aaron Beck and others) a person’s emotions and behaviors are largely determined by the way he/she structures the world. That is, thoughts or “cognitions” (verbal or image-based events in the stream of consciousness) are based on attitudes and assumptions developed from previous experiences. The goal of therapy with people who are feeling depressed or anxious or otherwise experiencing difficulties is to identify, reality-test, and correct distorted conceptualizations and beliefs that underlie these cognitions.

People in general have underlying thoughts that may or may not be in conscious awareness based on their past experiences. Trauma like divorce, a death in the family, an accident, or anything that is subjectively upsetting can have long lasting effects, causing us to interact with the world in a way that is affected by these events. For example, children whose parents divorce and subsequently lose access to one parent often feel that they are not important enough to be loved. A death or an accident can cause subconscious thoughts about lack of control in an individual’s life. Something as common as bullying at school can cause children to grow up with the recurring thought that nobody truly likes them.

Now, how does this work into writing? Well, it's a universal human experience to have these underlying thoughts. Everyone suffers some kind of trauma in their life that shapes the way they engage the world and other people. In the paranormal book I mentioned above (and as I think is frequently the case in this genre), the female protagonist was experiencing feelings that she was unworthy to have someone like the male lead love her. She was too damaged, too unattractive, too unimportant for someone as incredible as him to take an interest in. The majority of the tension in this book was created by him doing things to prove the contrary (reality-testing if you will) until I, as the reader, was practically screaming at this girl to open her bloody eyes and see the truth. The climax comes when they have a hot and heavy intimate session where she is forced to change her distorted belief (at least for the moment).

This seems to frequently be the case across genres. The protagonist is struggling against thoughts of inadequacy based on past experience, yet forced to confront these distorted beliefs and overcome them when faced with extreme events. Think J.R.R. Tolkien’s Frodo (or Bilbo for that matter) – how can anyone as unimportant as him carry out such a huge task? This makes for great tension. It also is a natural way to develop character growth. What a cool thing to consciously incorporate into writing fiction.

I recently ran across another blog post on Writer Unboxed related to therapy, albeit a very different concept from what I outlined above. It’s very worth checking out.

Looking forward to hearing comments on this post and get the perspective of people with different backgrounds than mine!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

(How to) Moon People

You don't want to miss this review of "The Worst Book Ever."

The post is accompanied by glowing endorsements from Amazon reviewers like this one:

"A good book. I like the spaceship on the cover. This is a book. And Also its a Good book, one to read. The auther who goes by the Name of Daryl M. Corteney really has a nack for Good science Fiction telling. Also the Story. Now I dont want too Give to much away. In my review, So your going to have to. Read, the Book you’re self. But serve ice it to Say, your going to Read some things here. That you really did’nt expect. I Took one star Off for being Short and Singlespaced. But hey."

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Use (And Misuse) of Negative Space in Writing Fiction

I’ve been thinking about how negative space is used in writing fiction.

Here is the use of negative space I’m most familiar with as illustrated by Chekov in his story The Lady With The Dog:

The attitude of Anna Sergeyevna – “the lady with the dog” – to what had happened was somehow peculiar, very grave, as though it were her fault – so it seemed, and it was strange and inappropriate. Her face dropped and faded, and on both side of it her long hair hung down mournfully; she mused in a dejected attitude like “the woman who was a sinner” in an old-fashioned picture.

“It’s wrong,” she said. “You will be the first to despise me now.”

There was a watermelon on the table. Gurov cut himself a slice and began eating it without haste. There followed at least half an hour of silence.

Anna Sergeyevna was touching; there was about her the purity of a good, simple woman who had seen little of life. The solitary candle burning on the table threw a faint light on her face, yet it was clear that she was very unhappy.

“How could I despise you? asked Gurov. “You don’t know what you are saying.”

Chekov uses the watermelon - Gurov eating without haste followed by at least half an hour of silence - as a pause or a representation of time passing where the reader feels the slowness of pace, the awkwardness, how the absence of writing is more meaningful than any other mundane details would be.

Another way to use negative space in writing fiction is with breaks. This is something I haven’t thought about a lot, but I’m starting to consider how to make better use of my breaks.

As Nick Mamatas explains in his book Starve Better: Surviving the Endless Horror of the Writing Life, “scene breaks all but invite an editor to stop reading at the break, so be sure you use them only when necessary and proper.”

Nick goes on to explain “a scene break is thus primarily useful when the break is profound and signaling it is thus very important.”

In other words, don’t put in a scene break between a character waking up and then driving his car shortly afterward. Nick asserts that a scene break does not mean “and then” or “meanwhile.”

Here is an example from Starve Better of when to use carriage returns, scene breaks, and chapter breaks:
“You’ll never take me alive, imperialist pigs!” Joseph shouted, raising his AK.
(two carriage returns)

Later that night, in prison, Joseph tried to enjoy his Salisbury steak.

“You’ll never take me alive, imperialist pigs!” Joseph shouted, raising his AK.
(scene break) #
At Joseph’s funeral, his son, Joseph Jr. vowed revenge on America.

“You’ll never take me alive, imperialist pigs!” Joseph shouted, raising his AK.

(chapter break) II.

Harvey always enjoyed Martyr’s Day. The government not only outfitted him with slightly longer leg irons for the holiday, it also let him eat all the pigeons he could kill as part of their statuary protection program.

Seeing that all the busts of Joseph-Leader, Founder, and Father of all of us-made a more popular toilet than anything else, Harvey wondered if there wasn’t something in the way the bronze of Joseph’s bald head gleamed under the sun.

Negative space is like breathing. How long do you want that breath to be? A short gulp – maybe carriage returns. A deep inhale – maybe a chapter break to show a more significant change.

It was interesting for me to go back and reread some of my stories giving more attention to negative space. It’s fascinating how the use of non-writing can change a story.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Podcasts for Writers

Odyssey has over 40 great podcasts by wonderful writers like Theodora Goss, James Morrow, Shawna McCarthy, Gardner Dozois, Jeff VanderMeer, Bruce Holland Rogers, and many more. Check it out here.