If the Baby is Ugly….

You know that thing you do, that thing where you justify the reactions others have to your work?

I wrote a book once. Well, actually I wrote several books. None of them sold very well, and I took to saying “It is because my genius is not knowable.”

Have you ever said that? Really, now. You know you have. Maybe not in those words, and maybe not aloud, but you know what I’m talking about. People just don’t get it.

You know what that is? It’s the use of self-affirmation to ease the pain of what you perceive as different from what you expected. We practice this technique quite a bit, but some of where it starts is with the dissonance we feel when what we say may not be what we really mean.

Cognitive dissonance, defined, is “an internal state that results when individuals notice inconsistency between two or more attitudes or between their attitudes and their behavior.”

In English, man!

In simple terms, it’s that slightly uncomfortable feeling you get when the baby is ugly but you say “He’s soooooo cute!”

uglybabyIf the baby is ugly, the baby is ugly. Why do we say it’s not? Because the parents are friends and we don’t want to upset them? Yes, that’s probably the motivation behind the lie.

It’s the same with reviews, you know.

Think about that for a moment: Why say “This book is the greatest ever written!!!!1!” when you know the writing is horrible, the story doesn’t go anywhere, and you would rather watch paint dry than read another chapter?

You know why.

It’s cognitive dissonance and what you’re saying right now (“They are writer friends and I want to help”) is self-affirmation. You’re saying something to cover your butt, to make yourself feel better for leaving that five-star review on Amazon for a book that should be one (or fewer stars).

Who are you helping with that?

Are you disillusioning the writer or are you making yourself feel better by “helping” someone else out who is an independent like you?

If the baby is ugly….

Bruce Blake, who might be known to some here (*wink*), once edited a manuscript of mine. It had errors. There were problems and inconsistencies and “farthers” where there should have been “furthers.” Between his edits and Scott Bury’s (who might also be known to some here (*wink*)) were kind enough to say “you know, this baby is ugly.”

You know what I did with that knowledge? I edited my manuscript, breathed a little, and still published it. The book sold little, and in my head I thought “it is because my genius is not knowable.” So while there was honesty in the reviews, I still thought what others had to say was off the mark and practiced self-affirmation when I should have practiced rewriting draft 52 (or 53…I lost count).

So what is needed in our industry? What is needed, I think, is a bit of honesty. If a manuscript sucks, regardless of how many other published manuscripts an author has or the size of their publishing house, the writer needs to know their baby is ugly.

I wrote a two-star review of a David Morrell book once. It felt good. I didn’t lie.

Will he care? He’s Rambo. Of course not.

But if an up-and-coming writer really wants to improve, if they really want to give the baby plastic surgery so-to-speak, they need to know the truth and we (as readers and writers and reviewers) need to be able to tell them that truth.

Cognitive dissonance is a thing. Self-affirmation is what helps ease the discomfort.

In the words of Bob Newhart: “Stop it.

If the baby is ugly….


Benjamin X. Wretlind ran with scissors when he was five. He now writes. He is the author of A Difficult Mirror, Castles: A Fictional Memoir of a Girl with Scissors, and Sketches from the Spanish Mustang.

He also gets up before 4am to milk (words, not cows).

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The Same Old Argument

By Bruce Blake

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I did something unusual this weekend…I had a Saturday off. If you heard angels singing, now you know why.

While it’s not typical for me to have a day off from the ole day job on a Saturday, it wasn’t a surprise. Mainly, it didn’t surprise me because I asked for the day off. Those guys sure  know how to reward good work.

038575440XI took the day off because a friend of mine who is a traditionally published author was doing a book signing at a local book store. My friend–Jordan Stratford, author of the fantastic Wollstonecraft Detective Agency books for young readers–has a very interesting story that we can all feel jealous of (check it out here), but that’s not the subject of today’s post. No, today’s post is inspired by the conversation Jordan and I had regarding the differences between being self-published or published by one of the Big 5. As many of you might recall, I’ve recently signed on to have my Small Gods series with a publisher, but that is a ‘small press,’ so I kinda still count that as self-published (but with a great deal of help).

Now let me qualify first…I don’t want this to degenerate into a ‘which is better’ post. My conversation with Jordan simply highlighted a few differences, so here they are in no particular order.

1. Editing – when I send my finished novel off to my editor, I generally have it back within a week. In that time, she  reads it twice (have I ever mentioned how much I love my editor? Ella is amazing!), makes notes and suggestions, and sometimes manages to make fun of me to keep my head from ballooning. Jordan told me that he sent the third book in the series to his  editor in August and recently found out it hasn’t been read yet.

2. Timelines – I write a book, it gets edited, it gets published. When I was writing full-time, that entire process might have taken only two months. It’s longer now that I’m back at work, to be sure, but I think 6 months wouldn’t be an unreasonable estimate beginning to end. The second book of the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency series was finished in 2013 and is set for publication in August of 2015.

3. Money – he got an advance. He even gets to use phrases like ‘earn out.’ I didn’t and I don’t. Need I say more?

4. Promo – I don’t know what they do, but I did notice that Jordan’s site lists two publicists–one for the US, one for Canada. To the best of my knowledge, I don’t have a publicist.

5. Contracts – contracts?

6. Reporting – I can obsessively check the sales of my self-published books as many times per day as I want. Jordan can check his rank on Amazon but otherwise uses his time wisely for other things…like writing. A definite win for the big guys.

7. Media attention – When I Googled Jordan (unbelievable that Google has become a verb), I found articles publishedth1 about him and Wollstonecraft on such places as CBC (that’s the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for you non-Canadians out there), Yahoo news, Huffington Post, and Reading Rainbow. Google me and you find my blog and a nice note my  mom once wrote about me. Too bad, I’ve always wanted to be on Reading Rainbow. (It should be noted that, when Googling Jordan, I also came up with a story titled “Daredevil Stratford Pilot Becomes Jordan Princess.” I chuckled at that).

I’m sure there a ton of other differences, but those were my observations. You can easily argue one way or the other–both have their advantages and disadvantages. I think I like this place I’ve found in between–the small press. Maybe we’ll tackle that in another post. Or maybe I’ll see if we can get it right from the horse’s mouth.

What are your thoughts on self- vs, trad publishing?

—–

Bruce Blake is a writer.

The Trouble With George R.R. Martin

by Bruce Blake

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Recently, our good friend Scott Bury lamented in his post, Spies Everywhere, how it seemed that Hollywood and Sony had been ripping off his ideas.  Inspired by his post, I decided to take a closer look at a similar subject.

One George R.R. Martin.

Perhaps you’ve heard of him…he is writing a little series about some place called Westeros.

Like most of the free world–and by free world, I mean anyone who has cable, a DVD player, or loose enough morals to take advantage of sites like thrones, Game of Thrones, A Song of Ice and Fire, Westeros, George MartinProject Free TV–I’ve recently finished watching season 4 of A Game of Thrones. Unlike the majority of people watching this excellent series, I have also read the first three books of Mr. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. For those of you who are unaware of the parallels, that means I am in the same place both televisionally and literarily (I think I made at least one of those words up).

Since this is the case, I decided it was time to pick up the fourth volume, A Feast for Crows, and get it read before season 5 arrives so I can stay ahead of the game and bother my wife, who hasn’t read the book, by letting slip the odd important detail before it happens whenever she makes me mad.

I’m not far into the book–only about 150 pages (and still waiting for something of importance to happen. It’s sad that, the more successful an author gets, the less say the editors have…happened to J.K. Rowling and Stephen King, too)–but I’ve come to notice a pattern in the books of Mr. Martin’s that I’ve read.

George RR Martin is stealing my ideas. Here’s how my observation differs from Scott’s, however:

George isn’t just stealing my ideas, but he’s doing it, writing them, and publishing them before I ever have them!

Mr. Martin smiling about another idea he stole that I haven't even had yet!

Mr. Martin smiling about another idea he stole that I haven’t even had yet!

The unmitigated nerve! I imagine that a number of other authors are finding much the same thing when they read his series. What it boils down to is that the man is so creative and imaginative, and the series looks to be stretching on for so long, George may actually use up every good idea there is to be used in fantasy.

How many of you have had the idea of an army created from men bred from the time of their birth to be warriors? Or of people who can ‘warg’ themselves into animals (you may have used a different term)? God trees? Cities built on islands interlinked by bridges (Scott Lynch must be stewing over that one!)?

Similar comments may be true of many other lengthy fantasy series but, to be honest, I haven’t read too many of them. I started Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series years ago, but found it too slow-moving to slog my way through all one hundred and thirteen books, so abandoned it after about 400 pages. The only author we likely can’t accuse of pre-stealing our ideas is JRR Tolkien (as I’ve probably wondered on the very blog in the past…should I change my name to Bruce RR Blake? Would that guarantee me some measure of success?). Since Mr. Tolkien pretty much invented the entire genre, it is he whom the rest of us deign to pilfer from.

The thing that makes Mr. Martin’s reverse larceny most concerning is the massive amount  of exposure his ideas have received. Seven million people thiefwatched the season 4 finale on HBO, and I presume that number doesn’t include the pirates who watched it (Arrr!). If I’d discovered some unknown–or even relatively known–author had plagiarized my cool ideas before I had them, I probably wouldn’t be quite so concerned. But seven million people watched one episode…one episode!!

How will I ever get credit for a reasonable idea if he keeps writing?

I may as well give up this genre and start writing about  a boy who goes to wizard school…wait. What? Someone already did that?

See what I mean.

So, George, I beg of you…lay down your quill, unplug your Selectric typewriter, lose the password to your laptop. For God’s sake, and for the sake and sanity of all the fantasy authors in the world, leave some good ideas for the rest of us!

—–

Bruce Blake is currently writing the third book in his Small Gods series and it was George Martin’s use of the term ‘small gods’ in A Feast for Crows that sent him over the edge.

You should still read his books, anyway.

Welcome Back to the Blog

by Bruce Blake

The time has finally come…the return of the Guild of Dreams.

After a lengthy hiatus (if you choose to read that as ‘Bruce got lazy for an extended period of time’, I would probably be hard pressed to argue the point), the motley blog crew have returned to entertain and enlighten. Returning to the Guild are myself, Autumn Birt, Chantal Boudreau, Scott Bury, Joshua Johnson, AM Justice, Steven MontanoGuild-wglow 300, and Benjamin X. Wretlind.

So here’s the set up: we’re paring things down a little, with regular posts scheduled for Mondays and Fridays. That’s not to say you won’t see the occasional post on other days…special guests, book announcements, cover reveals, and the like may pop up at any time, so be sure to sign up for email updates over there on the top right if you haven’t done so already.

And what can you expect from the posts you’ll find on the Guild? The easiest way to figure that is to have a look back through previous posts. If you’re too lazy or preoccupied to find the time to do that, then let me fill you in: you’ll find pointers on writing, editing, formatting, publishing, and the like; you’ll find out where ideas come from, how characters are developed, and how to promote your own work. If prior patterns hold, you will likely also get to see some cool pics Steven uses to draw inspiration, stories of Autumn’s travel adventures, Chantal’s artwork, and Scott’s perspective on what the hell is wrong with the publishing industry and how to fix. Throw in Amanda’s writing chops (and Game of Thrones analysis), Benjamin’s creativity, and Joshua’s love of the writing process and tools, and I know there will be something here for everyone.

So sit back, pull up a chair, and the let the Guild of Dreams take you to worlds you never knew existed.

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Novelist

by Bruce Blake

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A few things happened in the last couple of weeks that have had me thinking about what goes in to being a novelist. We may not like to admit it–writers tend to be a bit on the shy and reserved side–but it does take someone special to complete the journey that is the completion of an entire novel.

The author's wife engaging in blatant husband promotion.

The author’s wife engaging in blatant husband promotion. Photo by Jo-Ann Way of Nuttycake Photography.

The first thing to set me pondering the plight of the novelist was my wife. For those of you who don’t follow regularly (or didn’t click the link fourteen words ago), the love of my life is a performer: she sings and acts, she is a burlesque diva and producer of shows, and she is also a playwright.

As a performer, she thrives on the feedback she receives from her audience, both during and after the performance. Their energy feeds her and her energy feeds them in a symbiotic relationship the likes of which an author will likely rarely experience. The feedback to a live performer is instantaneous–for better or for worse. Claps, whistles, cheers, autograph requests, wedding proposals, and so on. As writers, we peck away on our computers for months or years, loathe to show the product to anyone save our editors and trusted beta readers until it’s done, then we release it into the world.

Once it’s out there, the best we can usually hope for is the occasional review to pop up on Amazon or Goodreads; quiet accolades that pale in comparison to the thunderous applause of a rapturous theatre audience. Sure, a few may have the pleasure of a public reading and the requisite book signing afterward, but reading a snippet of a larger work hardly equates to watching an entire concert or play.

I was also struck by the difference between writing a novel and crafting a play. The major difference is easy to spot: the length. I don’t know how many words are in my wife’s current play (Stories of Love and Passion), but it is far fewer than the 100,000+ that typically make up a novel. That is not to say that it is easier to write a play–far from it. I don`t think I could have done what my wife did, but fewer words typically take less time. The next step after the writing was complete was to work with a dramaturge–the theatrical equivalent of an editor…sort of–and a director..

The jobs of the dramaturge and director are not only to make sure the correct words are set out in the right order, but that they

I think this is what my editor looks like, but I can't be sure. The picture is from her site, but it could be a fake.

I think this is what my editor looks like, but I can’t be sure. The picture is from her site, but it could be a fake.

are spoken properly, inflected in the proper way, that things are in the right place. To accomplish this, my wife and her dramaturge/director had to actually speak to each other. They met both by Skype and in person and more occasions than I can count. In comparison, I’ve worked with the same editor for seven of my eight novels (the fabulous Ella Medler) and we have spoken exactly…zero times. Skype? Nope. Face-to-face? We’re not even on the same continent.

Lonely.

The other thing that happened was an introduction to a man who wants to be a writer and has begun five novels and completed none. If the rest of you are anything like me, this is not an isolated incident. Many people I have bumped into have started novels only to abandon them, typically around halfway through. Many more have simply identified the desire to write a book, never to even get the first word down. So what is it that keeps these would be literarians (is that a word? Did I just coin a new term a la Willie Shakespeare?) from completing their books?

Could it be the stark terror of being so completely alone?

Write on, brave authors. I’m with you in spirit.

—–

Bruce Blake has written and self-published 8 novels and is likely hung up on the subject of loneliness because his wife recently left for a five-week tour with her new one woman play. Turns out Mr. Blake isn’t quite the bachelor he once was.

—–

Reliably Unreliable

by Bruce Blake

—–

fightclubRecently, I had a few extra minutes on my hands during my lunch at work, so I decided to fire up YouTube and waste a little time watching a video or two. The first one I decided on was a top 10 list…specifically a WatchMojo video counting down their version of the top movie narrators. Among them were two of my favourites: Fight Club and Memento, both of which are excellent examples of the use of the unreliable narrator.

I can’t say too much about Fight Club without giving stuff away (the first rule of Fight Club is don’t talk about Fight Club), so you’ll have to trust me that Edward Norton’s unnamed character (known even in the credits simply as ‘the narrator’) is completely unreliable in his relating the events of the movie.

Memento is easier to take a look at; the premise of the film revolves around a man who cannot recall recentdownload memories trying to track down his wife’s murderer. As the narrator of the movie, we know from the start that we will have to question everything he thinks he knows and every decision he makes. How can we trust the word of a man who can’t remember what happened only a day ago? (On a side night, if you haven’t seen this movie, you should. The screenplay was written by Hollywood’s current ‘it’ director, Christopher Nolan, and the story is told in reverse chronological order, not as a gimmick, but because it needs to be. Brilliant!)

The unreliable narrator is a device that has long been used by writers to keep things from readers, to set up surprises and keep us all guessing. I use the unreliable narrator myself in my Icarus Fell novels, keeping a tight, first person point of view through the entire first book, then loosening up to a couple of other POVs in books two and three. A few readers have expressed some level of frustration with this, because they only get to know what the character knows, but that is entirely the point. In these books, and many others, it is intended for the reader to be thrown slightly off kilter, to have events tinted by the narrators opinions, memories, biases, and so on. It can make for a more immersive read.

untilIfindyouAnother great example of the unreliable narrator can be found in John  Irving’s Until I Find You (it’s also a great example of how to write exquisitely flawed characters, as are all of his works). The first half of the book follows the main character, Jack Burns, through his coming of age as he and his mother search for his father. The second half is detailed by the grown up Jack as he retraces his youth and the unreliability of the young narrator is revealed bit by bit, until we see that Jack`s flawed memory has led both he and us seriously astray from the truth.

So what is your opinion of the unreliable narrator? Does it to the piece, or do you feel cheated by not knowing for sure if you are reading the truth? Who are some other memorable narrators who couldn’t be trusted?

—–

Bruce Blake is the author of 8 novels, 15 screenplays, half a dozen improv scripts, a volume of backwards haiku, and a complete set of encyclopedias written in pig Latin…or perhaps he is also an unreliable narrator.

A Moving Story

by Bruce Blake
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The building they're destroying

The building they’re destroying

Two weeks ago yesterday, I did one of those things we all dread…I moved. It was something the family was forced into rather than a choice, and by that I don’t mean we were bad tenants and the landlord expunged us from the building. No, the cute little 8 unit 1940s building we were in is being knocked down to make way for a three-story apartment building and, though moving is a pain in the behind, it is still preferable to living under a pile of rubble.

The last time we moved was a horrible experience. My son (seventeen at the time) and I did it ourselves. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the truck I rented broke down and we had to be towed over 80 kms. On top of that, it was my birthday. After that comedy of errors, I promised myself I’d hire movers the next time that particular Hell came around.

They say women forget the pain of childbirth so that they will have more children; I say the same is true of men when it comes to moving.

As the date approached, my wife urged me to call one of the local, short distance moving companies (we were only hauling the contents of our lives 8 blocks),

The new one they're building...we don't live there.

The new one they’re building…we don’t live there.

but I resisted. My faulty logic kicked in and I realized that I now have a son who is almost twenty…I didn’t need a couple of sweaty fellows with a big truck and a dolly, all I needed was a U-Haul, a case of beer, a couple of pizzas, and Erik and a few of his buddies. What twenty year old wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to help move with the promise of a couple of brewskies and slices of ‘za? Truly, it was a foolproof plan…until it turned out Friday was the day the move needed to happen.

What are most twenty-year olds doing on a Friday? That’s right: Working or going to school.

Undaunted, I picked up the truck, followed by retrieving my son from his grandparents’ house. His friends were still coming to help–the lure of free beer and food is too much for most men–but we would be on our own until late afternoon, so we formulated a plan. Since it was just the two of us, we’d move the smaller things, hoping to kill enough time that his friends would show and help out with the larger items.

By four in the afternoon, when his first buddy showed up to help, we had completely loaded and unloaded a sixteen foot truck and had arrived back at the old place for a second go. Coincidentally, this was also about the time my age started to make itself apparent–sore knee (I swear it’s from an old football injury), aching back (lacrosse?), and a variety of scrapes and contusions. With the addition of this third warm body, things went minutely faster, though the friend–in school to become and engineer (and not the type that drives a train)–was set on being the guy who Tetrised everything into the truck.

No way, pal…that’s my job.

The new digs

The new digs

An hour later and most of my belongings were set in the road rather than being brought into the truck. Apparently this is the best way to figure out how to pack them. Along about then, young man number three shows up, and that’s when things take a turn for the worse. It seems even with beer and pizza in the near future, three young men who have been friends for years (one them tired from moving all day) would rather monkey about and draw penises on the walls of the building being knocked down a la Superbad. Big penises, small penises, flowers with leaves on their stem that look suspiciously like male genitalia, even a figure strategically positioned over a light switch.

My three helpers found all this several levels beyond amusing. Me? Not so much. All I wanted to do was finish and put my weary body to bed (if there was still enough time to put a bed together by the time we finished).

Magically, six hours later, the job was finally finished. It had been thirteen hours since I picked up the truck. The sun had long since set, the crickets began chirping, and at least one helper gave up and went home to his girlfriend. Fear not, though, all the pizza was consumed, and with relish. The part I find most difficult to believe out of the entire adventure is that my young helpers only imbibed two beers between the three of them.

No wonder it took so long to move…my helpers weren’t human men, but some kind of robots or clones.

What 20-year-old doesn’t want an ice-cold beer?

An example of the tasty brew my helpers chose not to drink

An example of the tasty brew my helpers chose not to drink

You may be wondering right now if you’ve stumbled on the wrong blog; isn’t the Guild of Dreams normally about writing? It is, but we all need a break once in a while, don’t we?

What horrible moving stories do you have to share?

—-

On a side note, if you haven’t gone to see Guardians of the Galaxy yet at your local cinema, do yourself a favour and get out to do it soon. Funny, entertaining, warm and fuzzy, and only a couple of swear words. Worth every penny of the $312 it costs to take the family to see a movie.

—–

Bruce Blake is the author of 8 self-published novels and has moved way too many times in his life. Normally you can find him frequenting coffee shops putting pen to paper, but don’t look for another week or two, as he is still recovering from his ordeal.

 

For the Love of Writing

By Bruce Blake

As I sit down to write this post, I feel not unlike what I imagine a man with a drinking problem must experience as he gets up in front of a roomful of strangers for the first time to announce he has a problem. I’m not given to making personal admissions over the internet too often (unless I’m gushing about my kids or my wife), but I feel it’s time to get something off my chest.

I’ve faced a number of significant personal challenges over the better part of the last year, and I’ve let it come between me and my writing.

Those of you who know me fairly well are likely not surprised; after publishing five novels last year, I have yet to publish a single word this year. While I wrote the entire first draft of a novel in about two weeks last year, I find myself struggling to put fingers to keyboard to produce anything meaningful.

But this isn’t a post about writers’ block, because that isn’t my issue. Ideas flow freely through my mind, scenarios to be played out on the page at some later date.

It’s also not a post about motivation, at least not directly. No, until I hurt my back, I didn’t know what it was.

I better qualify this by pointing out this was not a serious injury, In fact, I have no idea how it is I went to bed one night feeling fine and woke up a few hours later with pain so bad I couldn’t stay prone. For our purposes, though, the physical cause of my discomfort is moot. The important part of this event is that it prompted a visit to the chiropractor.

I’ve been to chiropractors before, but not in the couple of years since we relocated, so I found myself at the home office of someone new to me–a chiropractor my wife has used and highly recommended. When I arrived and began talking with her, I found out why my open-minded, alternative medicine-loving wife liked her so much: she is not just a cracker-of-backs, but also an emotional healer.

Danny Aiello in Jacob's Ladder

Danny Aiello in Jacob’s Ladder

Let me rephrase that to make sure I’ve put it across correctly: like channeling Danny Aiello in Jacob’s Ladder, she not only deals with the physical aspect of the cause of back issues, but also delves into the emotional cause, as well.

At this point, I assume a portion of the blog’s readership is thinking ‘wow, cool’ while another faction is considering finding a post a little less touchy-feely and a bit more writing-oriented. If I told you her method for discerning the underlying emotional issue involved having me hold up my left arm and her pushing down on it while having me say things aloud, that group would likely go running for the hills, but stick with me because I’m getting to the point.

What came out of her assessment was that my back pain was at least partially caused by my lack of writing (and my feelings around it), but then she dug deeper, and we came up with the reason my previously voluminous well seemed so difficult to draw water from.

We all start writing for the same reason: we love to write. For serious writers, it’s not really a choice, but something we have to do, like breathing. But there’s been significant change in the world of writers over the past few years; with the advent of easy self-publishing, writers can actually write with the knowledge that their work will be published, and that readers will consume those works, for better or for worse.

And that knowledge can change a writers attitude.

The first part of my time away from the computer was necessary–some family concerns and starting back at a regular job demanded my attention and a break from creating worlds. What didn’t need to happen was the length of time I’ve been away. What transpired is that I got more concerned about looking at the sales reports on Amazon, reading reviews, thinking about how to promote myself and my works on social media, and overwhelmed by the sheer number and cost of potential places to advertise.

Somewhere amongst that jumble of business, I’d forgotten about the joy of being a writer, the fulfillment of creating a character and laying out a story. But thanks to the help of a guardian angel-esque chiropractor who, in the space of forty-five minutes took away my back pain and gave me insight, I can see where I’ve gone astray.

Am I the only one this has happened to? How many other writers read the blogs and hear stories about authors like Hugh Howey, Russell Blake, HM Ward and others, and lose sight of why they write in the first place? Perhaps I should start passing out my chiropractor’s number, maybe even start a support group.

My name is Bruce, and I had a problem, but I’ve rediscovered me raison d’etre, my passion for writing…no problem.

What about you? Do you still do it for love?

—–

Bruce Blake is the author of 8 novels. HIs back is feeling much better and he can’t wait to write 8 more.

Readers? Writers? Both?

by Bruce Blake

—–

More than once, the collection of writers who make up this little Guild have engaged in conversation (the typed on Facebook kind, not the face-to-face variety; to the best of my knowledge, none of us have ever met any of the others) regarding appropriate topics for posts. If you’ve been following us for a bit, you’ll have noticed that the majority of our posts tend to lean toward the ‘for writers’ style.

I guess we all believe in the old adage that tells us to write what we know. When you’re a writer, it follows that you might know a little something about writing.

So what’s the trouble? Simply put, every writer writes about writing. The interwebs are positively cluttered with authors pontificating on the correct usage of adverbs, where to place your participles, best character traits for both characters and traitors, and how to create realistic dialogue, amongst a plethora of other subjects. All interesting, to be sure, but the subject we invariably come to during our social media fueled keyboard tap-fests is:

What sort of people do we want to draw to our blog?

Readers? Writers? Or both?

I’ll concede, there is certainly a great deal of spillover between the two. There is nary a writer who isn’t a reader (and if there is, perhaps they should rethink their vocation), but there can still be a division between the two. Me, for example, I’d consider myself a writer. I read, of course, but if you took a look at my life over the past few years, you’d find that I’ve spent a great deal more time spewing words out than I have gobbling them up. Truth be told, I’ve never been a voracious reader. I read too slowly to get through books quickly (you may have read about that some time ago on my blog), and I don’t have enough patience to stick with things that don’t interest me (I might have said something about that before, too).

My mother falls firmly in the ‘reader’ category. She has an unquenchable thirst for words that has led to a dwelling so packed with books, I worry the fire marshal might swing by and declare it a danger to the neighbourhood. As far as I know, she has never wanted to be one of the people who creates those paper thingys full of mystical runes that tell stories, teach lessons, and impart opinions. She has always been content to devour, not to be the chef.

So my questions to the readers of this blog are these:

Where do you fall? Reader, writer, or the mythical hybrid who squeezes enough time into a day to do both equally?

and

005What do you want to read about in our virtual pages? More on writing? Details about the writers? Perhaps you’d like to know what I had for dinner or that my small, white dog has a fetish about licking his paws or how my cat likes to sleep in a pose reminiscent of Superman flying through the great blue yonder?

You tell me.

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Bruce Blake is a writer. Sometimes he reads, too. Very rarely does he do both at once. If you want to find out more about his writing, you can check him out here. If you want to see how much he reads, drop by his house about 11  pm as he climbs into bed and struggles through a page or two before nodding off.

 

Discovering Fantasy

by Bruce Blake

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thehobbit-bookcoverLike many fantasy lovers of my generation (not to mention a few generations before and a couple after), JRR Tolkien introduced me to fantasy. I don’t remember how old I was when I read The Hobbit, but it was certainly before the more adult-aimed Mr. King’s rabid dog Cujo took a bite out of me.

Like so many others, Bilbo and Gandalf and their companions set me on a path to incredible worlds filled with magic, adventure, and amazing creatures. I’ve spent much of my reading life seeking out these unique places. The adventure continued with Frodo and the ring, and Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series soon followed. Later, as an early teen, I discovered Robert E. Howard’s Conan and fell in love (in a manly kind of way, you understand). The list is long and includes hybrid fantasy like King’s The Dark Tower and Piers Anthony’s Apprentice Adept series. I’ve always endeavoured to find something new, fresh, something not as well-known.

I was an early adopter of George RR Martin (that means I read the books before the TV show came out, not because of it), and read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods the second it was published (to traipse down a different branch of the fantasy family tree). More recently, I politely point every urban fantasy fan I bump into toward Mike Carey’s brilliant Felix Castor series (I did it to you, remember?).

Ah, the wonder of discovering a new author to devour, fresh turns-of-phrase in which to bask. Joe Abercrombie took my world by storm recently with his grit and eloquence, his evocative characters and world painted gray. And speaking of prose every writer wishes they wrote, we can’t leave out the uber-talented China Mieville, can we? I think not.

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself standing in front of the fantasy section at my local Chapters, salivating at the vast smorgasbord arrayed before me. But you know how difficult it is to order when everything on the menu sounds so good…no matter how your stomach rumbles, it’s too difficult to make a choice.  To make my task easier, I pulled out my trusty smartphone, called up my pal Mr. Google, and thumb-typed the words ‘Best Fantasy Novels of 2013’, then began matching names on lists with the spines taunting me from the shelves.

When the dust settled, I held in my hand a novel I’d never heard of written by a man with a name I didn’t know: The Red Knight by Miles Cameron.Unknown

And what was it, you ask, that made me choose this one from all those worthy suitors? It was due to one line I read in a review that applauded how adeptly he handled writing from eight different points of view. Since I’m currently writing a series that encompasses a similar number, I thought perhaps Mr. Cameron and I might become friends.

Turns out it was an excellent choice. With little time on my hands for reading these days, I’ve not gotten far into the book, but what I have read has impressed me. The writing is crisp, the battle scenes exquisitely drawn, and the characters alluring.The author’s knowledge of weapons and armour is so complete, one might guess he’s made the entire thing up, and the magic systems are like nothing I’ve ever read.

But this post is not meant to be a review of what promises to be a great book (I’m happy to find the second book in the series is now available), it’s meant to be an encouragement to try someone new. There’s nothing like taking a chance on something completely unknown and becoming all the richer for it. I bought Mr. Cameron’s book because an iPhone told me to, so how will you decide on your next great find. Will you close your eyes while you’re standing before the shelves at the library and reach out blindly, accepting whatever tome fate thrusts into your grasp? Will you pick a number between 2000 and 3000, then go to Amazon and download the book in that position on the fantasy bestsellers list without even reading the description?

Go on, take a chance. You never know where your new favourite writer might be hiding.

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Bruce Blake is the author of 8 novels and recently a watcher of too many television shows on Netflix. You can find him lurking in coffee shops–usually bathed in the glow of a laptop–or occasionally he has been sighted standing in front of a bookshelf with eyes closed and a shaking hand extended…