Saturday, July 25, 2009

Wish I was there

My name is Jennifer, and I am a geek. Therefore, this weekend, it's easy to know where I want to be. San Diego, at the annual geekfest known as Comic-Con.

Once again this year, I am a distant observer, devouring the updates on panels about my favorite television shows on the web. Chuck! Lost! 24! Heroes! Dollhouse! I'm laughing at and at the same time admiring the costumes, wondering how much those people spent to make themselves look that crazy.

In a few weeks, my sister and I will go to Atlanta for DragonCon, which is Comic-Con's younger sibling. Fewer big stars, fewer people (only 35,000 or so), but crazier costumes if that's possible. I'm looking forward to it, but this weekend, it can't get here soon enough.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

David Eddings

I was saddened about a month ago when I read about the death of one of my favorite authors, David Eddings. His books were a big part of my teenage years. After tonight, I also have great respect for David Eddings the person.

On tomorrow's front page of The Denver Post is a story about $10 million Eddings left to National Jewish to fund treatment and research of pediatric asthma. His wife apparently had asthma, but the donation came as a surprise to the hospital.

What a fantastic thing for him to do.

On another subject: I'm reading a Writers of the Future anthology published about four years ago. I recognize two writers' names in there: Cat Sparks and Ken Scholes, the latter of whom wrote a fun piece about Houdini escaping Hell. I'm trying to get a better idea of what kind of story the judges like.

Monday, July 13, 2009

What I'm reading

Today at the library, I picked up "Anathem" by Neal Stephenson. I was astounded at the heft of the hardback, about 900 pages. I haven't read a book that long since I gave up on Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series several years ago. I hope Stephenson keeps his tale moving at a faster pace.

Now this is a novel I know next to nothing about. I've never read anything by Stephenson, although the book jacket says he has written seven other novels. I picked it up because it is a nominee for the Hugo and winner of the Locus Award, and because I was looking for some fresh science fiction.

On the writing front, I've started another story (untitled for the moment) while I'm waiting for the critique process to run its course on "The Babel Project." I'm about 2,500 words in. This is going to be a long one, for me at least, and it is my first attempt at utilizing the principles I picked up from Rust Hills' "Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular." We'll see how it turns out.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Rust Hills

Last year was the first time I had heard of L. Rust Hills, the former fiction editor of Esquire magazine. I edited his obituary for the newspaper. In it, the writer mentioned a book Hills had written: "Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular." The obit said the book was used in many creative-writing classes. I made note of the title with the intention of buying it, but I never did.

A week or two ago, a published writer on a message board I frequent mentioned that same book as being one that changed the way she writes. So I got off my butt and got it from my local library.

Now I see what the buzz is about.

Hills doesn't say anything extraordinary. There are no amazing revelations. But he does make me think about the techniques of writing short fiction in ways I haven't before. The key part of that being: He makes me think.

Probably the thing I'll take away the most is his insistence (rightly so) that a short story must have theme, action and character that all work together to create one harmonious unit. I haven't thought much about theme in my writing thus far. If I'm lucky, doing so will help me write better fiction.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Fourth!

I'm hoping to leave work early enough that I can join my family for fireworks tonight. We'll see. It depends on whether there's breaking news, so I'm crossing my fingers for a quiet night.

On the writing front, I'm still working my way through editing a short story that will be my fourth-quarter entry to the Writers of the Future contest. It needs to be ready for my critique group by July 14. I've gotten the word count down more than 10 percent, and I haven't tackled one whole section yet. Sometimes I'm amazed at how puffy my writing is.

Current book on the nightstand: "The Dream Thief" by Shana Abe