Finished! Almost! I’m pretty sure!

Okay, so obviously work on the story I’m including in the TUYO world companion has been slow and difficult, what with the many little distractions pattering about underfoot.

The babies are spending a lot of time out of the puppy room / the playpen. Of course sometimes one of the babies makes a mistake, but obviously I have to let them make mistakes in order to say no no, please do that outside. Early corrections are a little nudge with my toe to push the puppy off balance and make him stop in, as it were, mid-mistake. Then a quick trip outside (another trip down the stairs, notice).

On the plus side, both the bigger puppies can now come up AND go down the stairs by themselves. And I’m almost certain both are now going out on the deck to do their business, which is adequate, though I will be gently suggesting that going down the stairs to the yard is better.

The tri boy will be leaving me on Sunday, by the way. He’s ready, but it will be a wrench.

Doesn’t he look huge? He is actually only six pounds. His fat brother is seven. They will probably both wind up a perfectly ordinary eighteen pounds or so. That is Naamah near him, by the way, and Leda at the end of the couch. At this moment, the Blen puppy was lying tucked under my legs and Ish and Morgan were crowded on the pillows at the right-hand side of the couch.

Anyway! So, I’ve had this clear idea about the ending of “Returning Hokino’s Knife” or whatever the title will turn out to be. I started in the wrong pov, realized that almost at once, switched to Arayo’s pov, realized I had fallen into first person, hauled myself back to third person, and then got the ending and that (finally) smoothed out the writing process.

Only last night I GOT to the ending and … it wasn’t right. It wasn’t the ending.

I wasn’t sure what to do about that, so I went to bed. Well, I took all the puppies out one last time and sat on the steps to watch them romp around and then carried them all back in and got them settled. THEN I went to bed. Then this morning I woke up about four AM (normal) and lay there thinking about that story while waiting for my alarm to go off. And I think now I have the ending in my head! The actual ending! I got up before my alarm went off so I could write down the crucial last moment quick before I forgot it, though actually I seldom forget crucial bits once I finally think of them.

So, with any luck at all, I’ll be finishing this story this evening. Whew! It’s, I don’t know, probably about 40,000 words or so, about 120 pages, something like that. I guess that makes it a novella rather than a short story.

The entire TUYO World Companion just ticked over 70,000 words, but the other part of it, the non-story part, will probably get longer. Heaven knows about the story. That could get shorter or maybe longer. I have a few notes about revision and then I guess I will be sending it to a beta reader to find out if it is a decent story. THEN I will put it up for preorder, because really, once the story is in decent shape, everything else is detail work. Plus I have the cover! So that means it can go up for preorder soon. I’m definitely thinking July 1 would be a great release date as long as I’m confident I can hit that. I’ll be able to make that call soon!

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Back Cover Description: Invictus

Okay, yes, I realize that NO FOREIGN SKY has only just dropped this past Monday, while the INVICTUS duology won’t be released till this fall, BUT I put a teaser for INVICTUS in the back of NO FOREIGN SKY. I know some of you have noticed that already.

Since I knew I was going to include that teaser, obviously it made sense to go ahead and put in a link to the first INVICTUS book.

THAT meant I needed to go ahead and put both INVICTUS books up for preorder. And THAT meant — given the title of this post, I’m sure you can see this coming — that I suddenly had to come up with back over description.

Initially I cheated: I just put: Add Description Here for both books and completed the preorder process. I did this several weeks ago, maybe a month ago. What could go wrong? I said. No one will notice they’re up yet, I said. It’s not like I’ve mentioned that I’m putting them up. I don’t have to mention that till I’m ready for readers to actually see these books on Amazon.

Well, I underestimated my readers! A few days later, I was startled to see that a few brave, trusting readers had preordered one or both books without ANY book description at all. Wow. I’m flattered, and honestly, how did you even know that duology was up? Maybe Amazon dropped INVICTUS into some inboxes or on some Kindles as a suggestion for various readers. Anyway, I did not expect that.

I immediately wrote back cover description and updated both books. The first book has, I hope, pretty decent description. The second book right now has a very brief description, which of course I will need to expand, but at least it’s got something. I would, as always, appreciate your help fine-tuning both. Therefore:



Every soldier knows there are endless ways to die.
Every Ubezhishche soldier knows there are far worse fates than death.

Sevastien one zero two four, S line third modification, has survived the destruction of his own ship and an enemy station. But he was rescued by the wrong side — by Nalyn Ila, captain of the Elysian destroyer Invictus. Now he’s facing a difficult problem: How to persuade Captain Ila and her people that he is not an enemy combatant. That if there was an act of war, it was committed by her people, not his own.

Sevastien is almost certain he was an innocent bystander of disaster … unless his own people set him up, aiming to get him aboard Invictus for reasons he can’t yet understand. Maybe they did. It’s just the kind of thing Ubezhishche Command might do.

Nalyn Ila is almost certain Sevastien is an enemy agent, placed aboard her ship by Ubezhishche Command. But no one, not her own people nor the enemy nor Sevastien himself, can possibly guess what plans she might have for an Ubezhishche soldier. Even if he actually is an innocent bystander, she may be able to use him to accomplish her private goals. And if he’s actually an enemy agent … that might be even better.



No plan ever survives contact with the enemy.
Especially when you aren’t sure which side is your enemy.

Now that everyone’s secret plans have been revealed, Sevastien suddenly finds that he has to reassess everything he knows about his enemies … and his friends.


Now that you’ve read both descriptions, let me say some stuff.

Sevastien actually goes by Syova. That’s the name his teammates and friends call him, and that’s the name most people (not all) call him when he’s on Invictus as well. That’s not a problem, is it? Everyone will be fine when the first lines of the story refer to Syova and not Sevastien. I mean, here’s the beginning of the story:


Every soldier knew there were endless ways to die. Every Ubez of every line and any description, soldier or not, knew there were far worse fates than death.

Syova stood in a relaxed pose, his hands at his sides, idly calculating odds as he gazed through the transparent hull of his emergency pod toward the Elysian destroyer currently sifting through the distant wreckage of their station and his ship. At the moment, he was inclined to set the odds of death much higher than those of any worse fate. Elysian scanning technology was quite good, so the probability of dying from a pulse burst to the head was probably marginally higher than the probability of dying of radiation poisoning. As emergency pods enjoyed a fair supply of air, both of those possibilities seemed substantially more likely than death from asphyxiation. One never knew exactly how long a pod’s air would last, of course, which made the calculation somewhat unreliable. Still, he’d call it roughly point two, point one eight, and point zero six.

A fate worse than death … he thought he’d pegged the probability of that about right, at something close to point zero two. The senior command staff of that Elysian ship out there wouldn’t subject an Ubez prisoner to anything worse than an ordinary interrogation followed by a brisk execution, no matter how suspicious his presence in this vicinity. He knew every dossier of every senior officer on that ship forward and backward, and he was thoroughly confident in that judgment.

Unfortunately, the probability that they would turn him over to Elysian Admiralty was more difficult to calculate. If that happened, the odds of a fate worse than death would go sharply upward.


The teaser is substantially longer than that, of course, but you can see that the main protagonist goes by “Syova.” The name “Sevastien,” with or without the “one zero two four,” is formal and used by superiors and distant acquaintances and so on. So is that a potential problem or point of confusion? He does give his name as Sevastien one zero two four very soon after this opening.

Also, just some comments:

Although this story is quite different from TUYO, I am deliberately using some of the same tropes and some of the same elements of structure, which I expect you will recognize when you see them. For example, I set up a similar dynamic between the isolated, captive protagonist and the older, powerful captor. This time, the latter character is a woman, and also a pov protagonist, but still, there is this essential similarity.

There are other similarities, which would perhaps constitute spoilers, so I’m shutting up now. I always want to tell you way too much (WAY TOO MUCH) and have to strenuously resist that urge. I guess, having said this much, I should probably at least add up front that no one is a telepath, so don’t think that might be one of the similarities. I’m thinking of other things.

But I will say, INVICTUS is not a space opera. I’m honestly not sure what it is. I do hope readers will generally like both, but compared to NO FOREIGN SKY, this one is much slower paced, particularly in the beginning; and much more about, well, never mind, I can’t think of any way to say anything about certain things without spoiling you.

Once it’s out, I should do a post about SF subgenres and you can tell me where you think it fits, if anywhere.

Regardless of subgenre, this is a story I’ve enjoyed a lot — I’m going to enjoy picking it up again to finish revisions to the back half. I should get to that in a few days, maybe next week.

I hope you enjoy it too!

Now officially available for preorder.

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Here’s a great, great service if you are self-publishing

Book Raid has just put up this page: Best Book Promotion Sites – 2023

They have a long list of book promotion services with short descriptions AND, this is the cool part, authors who use these services are being asked to write reviews.

I’ve written a couple reviews and I’m going to go back over there and write a few more. Then I’m going to read everybody else’s reviews. And if you self-publish, I bet you will want to do the same.

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Out now —

Of course you know this, but NO FOREIGN SKY dropped today!

Releasing a new book is always exciting, and this time it’s a little nerve-wracking as well, as after all, this is my first SF novel! Kind of a big deal!

If you beta read this book and enjoyed it, I hope you will leave a brief review, or at least a rating. If you read it in the next few days, ditto. This isn’t like the seventh TUYO book, which (a) I feel very (very) confident about and also (b) it is after all the seventh book in a series; anybody who gets that far in a series is not going to care all that much about reviews, probably. (Though I still appreciate them!). But this is different. It’s a standalone, at least for now, plus a departure from fantasy, and I’m sure reviews are going to make a big difference for readers browsing for space opera.

I will, of course, totally understand if you picked it up but don’t get around to reading it for three years, because that’s pretty much how things work for me a lot of the time. (Almost all the time.) Still, if you do read it, please take a moment to leave a review (or at least a rating).


Here are Morgan’s two boys, with a lucky snapshot catching a particularly cute moment. They get their first vaccinations today. They are SO HUGE for their age that they may not have any vaccine reaction at all, though usually puppies are a little ouchy the next day and might run a fever. I don’t generally wait to see. I just give them Carprofen that evening to head off any potential reaction. I’ll do that here too, but seriously, these guys are bigger right now than my smaller Papillon was full grown.

I have decided to place the Blenheim! Oh, I will be sorry to let him go! But I don’t think I will be showing enough to do him justice. AND the little girl in his new family loves the idea of showing him! Probably in Rally, maybe in the Breed ring, who knows where it might lead? I don’t know if she’ll go on and do it, but wouldn’t that be wonderful? This could be a great, great puppy to get a kid into showing. Super confident, super motivated. I hope his bite stays good so he can show in every possible venue. I would even place him with an unrestricted registration, which I wouldn’t for a female puppy, but for a boy, if he’s really nice, yes.

I will have both these puppies for several weeks yet, which is fine with me, especially since that big Blen puppy can now come up stairs on his own! I will take a stab at teaching both these puppies to go up AND down so that I don’t have to heave them up and down myself. I do wonder what their adult weight will be. Honestly, probably not as high as it seems.

You know what’s particularly funny? The Tri boy’s new owner took the above photo. She doesn’t want to bring him home yet, not for another ten days or so, which is fine, but she was visiting. Now, the Tri boy hit the basic shift to independence a few days before his Blen brother, and for ME, the tricolor tends to dash off and play keepaway. But he went STRAIGHT to Kathy and climbed on her lap. What a good puppy! She’s been waiting for a tricolor for some time. Her current dog is a Blenheim and he is going to be so, so happy to have a little brother join the family.

Man, I’m going to miss these two when they leave me.

Also, here’s a super cute picture of Leda’s Girl Two.

Isn’t she a character! This puppy is funny and cute and confident. She has a nice shape to her head. All Leda’s puppies do have pretty heads regardless of markings. The standout right now — they are just going to be seven weeks in a few days, so they are still young to make the call — but the standout for me at the moment is Boy 2. Every time I catch any of the little puppies standing in a great stacked pose, head up and lovely topline sweeping right down to his tail, it’s Boy 2. I think they are all nice, but I think he is perhaps the nicest. Confident, too. He can actually make the big puppies back up when they are trying to push the little ones around.

So can Girl 2 above. She’s definitely personality-plus.

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The Best Alternate History


I can think of some alternate history novels I really enjoyed, but it’s not a particular interest of mine. In fact, some of the alternate histories that come to mind for me are not well known and there’s no chance they’ll appear on this list at Book Riot. (I haven’t clicked through yet, but I’m pretty confident.) I know, or I’m pretty sure, that a very large proportion of alternate histories deal with (a) The South wins the Civil War, or (b) The Nazis win World War II, and I’m not especially interested in either scenario. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I think both of those are boring, though of course a specific novel may handle either scenario so well that I love it. I mean, in theory. In the real world, that hasn’t ever happened.

Also, I specifically prefer alternate history that is also fantasy, so, I mean, Temeraire. Not that I believe in the essential element. You cannot sustain that population of dragons in Britain. There’s no way. But firmly suspending belief means that I loved the first book of this alternate history of the Napoleonic era with dragons.

On the other hand, if you start to say “alternate history, but with magic!” then you can get way beyond alternate history in a hurry. I mean, look at Liz Williams’ Inspector Chen series. I guess that’s sort of alternate history, in the sense that things might be different if heaven and hell were layered above and below ordinary reality in Singapore Three. But this is not really what I think of as alternate history.

I think I prefer a stricter definition, something that limits the fantasy elements so that the alternate history elements get a chance to shine. Anything beyond dragons = too much fantasy, though the dragons themselves might not push the boundary too hard. They are treated like natural creatures except that they are, you know, dragons, and also not ecologically plausible.

Let me pause to actually scan Book Riot’s list. Okay, there are zero WWII or South Wins the Civil War novels here, which is a surprise! Some of these sound pretty interesting.

I mean, The Haunting of Tram Car 015 sounds a bit like the Inspector Chen series.

In turn of the 20th century Cairo, the natural and supernatural mix. It’s up to agents from Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities to deal with any issues that come up between the two. So when a tram car is reportedly haunted, throwing a wrench into the city’s daily commute, a senior agent and his newbie partner must perform an exorcism. But this is no run of the mill haunting, and the agents will have to pull out all the stops to get the trains running on time again.

See? Detectives in a really odd alternate-history world where magic mixes into a modern-ish setting. That’s definitely reminiscent of Liz Williams’ excellent series. This is the one that catches my eye the most from the Book Riot list. But how about alternate history that’s all about the history and doesn’t blur the lines with fantasy?

One of my fairly recent favorites in that category is Clash of Eagles by Alan Smale.

This is “Romans meet Cahokians … with hangliders and Greek fire.” This is the first book of a trilogy. It’s very well written, but, warning, terrible things happen. To moderate that warning, let me add that the ultimate ending is not terrible. After Smale manages to end the first book in a fairly good way, I trusted that the whole trilogy would also end well, and it does.

One I’d like to read, but haven’t gotten to, is Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson.

This one begins with the idea that the Black Death eradicated Europeans and then moves on from that point of divergence to develop a world quite different from the real world. It sounds intriguing, though reviews are somewhat mixed.

Of course, for someone who really knows Alternate History, we should ask Craig N and/or Mike S for recommendations. I mean, here:

GURPS Alternate Earths and GURPS Alternate Earths 2 by Ken Hite, Mike Schiffer, and Craig Neumeier

Travel the Confederate States of America by dirigible. Battle the Aztec Jaguar Knights in their conquest of Europe. Join the American Resistance against Nazi occupation. March with the Roman legions on their campaigns in the New World. GURPS Alternate Earths provides fully fleshed-out backgrounds for six alternate histories … the six are Dixie, Roma Aeterna, Reich-5, Shikaku-Mon, Escalli, and Gernsback. That last would be the one you’d want to live in.

Also six more alternate histories in the second supplement: Serve the August Emperor as an Eye of Heaven – or plot the downfall of the world-girdling Ming. Take to the skies to defend democracy in Bourbon Europe. Raid the glittering pyramids of Mexico with your Vinlander kinsmen. Dodge British helicopter gunships as you fight for America 200 years after Washington’s execution. Raise your eyes to the stars of the Rightly Guided Stellar Caliphate.

I had forgotten the Rightly Guided Stellar Caliphate. That is a great name. It reminds me strongly of something … oh! The Benignity of the Compassionate Hand in Elizabeth Moon’s space opera series. I greatly enjoyed the first book set in this world, Hunting Party. That does not appear to be available on Kindle. Oh, yes it is, as part of an omnibus edition. I’ve never seen a better use of the word “benignity” in my life.

I see I’ve wandered away from the topic of alternate history. What’s another actual alternate history I’ve enjoyed? Well, there’s a book, actually a phenomenon, that is adjacent to alternate history: 1632, where a Pennsylvania mining town blips back to Europe in 1632, in the middle of the Thirty Years’ War. The first book is a gung-ho adventure story where the good guys sweep all obstacles before them. After that, the series turns into the most fascinating shared-world phenomenon in SFF history. I expect it’s still going strong, but I must admit I have lost track. I will pause to mention that my actual favorite book by Eric Flint is Mother of Demons, which offers great aliens. Mollusk types rather than anything more typical.

Here’s an alternate history I’d like to read: The Oppenheimer Alternative.

While J. Robert Oppenheimer and his Manhattan Project team struggle to develop the A-bomb, Edward Teller wants something even more devastating: a weapon based on nuclear fusion — the mechanism that powers the sun. But Teller’s research leads to a terrifying discovery: by the year 2030, the sun will eject its outermost layer, destroying the entire inner solar system — including Earth. After the war ends, Oppenheimer’s physicists combine forces with Albert Einstein, computing pioneer John von Neumann, and rocket designer Wernher von Braun — the greatest scientific geniuses from the last century racing against time to save our future. Meticulously researched and replete with real-life characters and events, The Oppenheimer Alternative is a breathtaking adventure through both real and alternate history.

Doesn’t that sound interesting? I have (sigh) a sample on my Kindle, languishing amongst all the vast number of other samples and books.

If you’ve got a favorite alternate history, or a suggestion for something adjacent to this subgenre, drop it in the comments. Craig and Mike S might have a top ten list instead of a particular favorite. Bring ’em on.

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Hopefully brief bobble in access to the audio version of TUYO

Just letting you all know that the audio version of TUYO is temporarily unavailable.

This has happened because I’ve been negotiating with ACX to change the distribution contract from exclusive to nonexclusive without waiting for the remaining four or so years specified by the initial contract. This will allow me to distribute the audiobook widely at a much reduced price, thus hopefully bringing listeners to the series.

The negotiation has abruptly moved forward, with the unexpected result that (a) the TUYO audiobook has been de-distributed from Amazon, (b) various complicated things are happening in the background, (c) the TUYO audiobook should once again be re-distributed to Amazon soon, and also to other platforms shortly thereafter.

If you’ve followed an audio link in an attempt to pick up the audio version of TUYO, thank you! Sorry if you hit this unexpected blank wall! I would not have pointed everyone to the audiobook if I had realized this would happen so quickly (or at all). The hiatus in availability should be brief, I hope a matter of days rather than weeks, and then once again the TUYO audiobook will be available.

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Do people deliberately decide to become a beta reader?

Both the linked posts are from the blog Write to Done. They’re obviously related, but it’s the first that puzzles me. I can see someone saying, “You know what, I bet I could make a decent second career out of freelance proofreading.” I can also see someone saying the same thing about freelance editing. But beta reading? That seems like … like … like deciding to be an amateur unpaid editor, when I sort of thought people mostly fell into beta reading. Or else traded beta reads with another author.

Here’s the post:

Beta Readers: 5 Skills To Become A Fantastic Help To New Writers

If you want to become a beta reader, the great news is, you’re not far away from this dream. Beta readers are an integral part of a writer’s process, and while they are most commonly associated with newer writers, you may get to try your hand at beta reading for an established author at some point.

A beta reader is a person who commits to reading a book before publication with the purpose of providing feedback for the writer. If an author asks you to beta read their book, you will need to focus on finding: 

  • Typos
  • Plot discrepancies 
  • Characterization issues 

You will also need to read the book as a reader. This acts as a mock test for the writer. If you find characters engaging, tell them so. If a particular character drives you crazy, the author needs to know this as well. 

I disagree about the first of these. Spotting typos, while a nice perk, is absolutely not the same thing as beta reading. If someone is focused on finding typos, I think that makes it much harder (MUCH HARDER) to look at bigger things, such as plot discrepancies and characterization.

Plot and characterization blur together, of course; one of the things that always catches my eye when I am beta reading for someone else is a character who does something that is out of character or that does not make sense in order to push the plot along. Particularly if the character is acting stupid in a way that is not in character. “Character acting stupid” is certainly something I want beta readers to point at for me. People who beta read NO FOREIGN SKY caught various plot details that did not make sense. That was definitely helpful.

This post contains tips about how to become a beta reader for an established author. Some apparently have an actual application. There are also tips on how to find a beta reader if you have completed a manuscript.

Have I mentioned how much I appreciate everyone here who beta reads for me? I appreciate you very much! If any of you ever want me to beta read for you, just ask! I will find the time!

I appreciate proofreaders very much as well, as I’m sure you all realize because I post about proofreading pretty often when getting close to a release date.

I find that if I proofread the manuscript myself half a dozen times in three different formats AND at least four other people read the manuscript AND at least one of those people is either Hanneke or Linda S (preferably both), THEN readers will still send me emails the first week after the book is released, pointing out about half a dozen more typos. Inclusive, at least, rather than each.

People have not found very many typos for TASMAKAT, far fewer than I expected. I cut that manuscript HARD twice, which involves very close reading, so maybe I actually cleared out a larger proportion of typos than usual. But everyone is finding SOME typos.


How to Become A Proofreader In 5 Steps (Even As A Beginner)

Whether you want to be a proofreader on the side or want to turn it into your career, this article will cover the basics of proofreading and everything you need to know about how to get your foot in the door.

Proofreaders typically focus on fixing punctuation, grammar, and any other sentence structure issues. They usually don’t focus on fixing the larger issues of a piece and instead just make sure it is free of any essential errors.

Exactly. Punctuation, grammar, and syntax. Also glaringly obvious continuity errors or logical flaws, but those are extra. It’s really punctuation, grammar, and syntax. Missing words. It’s astoundingly easy to read a word that isn’t there, over and over, through many proofreading iterations.

Some people have much more of a knack for proofreading than others. I’m about average. I will ALWAYS see effect/affect and lay/lie and “and I” vs “and me” errors. For those, I have extra-sharp radar. But I can read over a missing word without noticing and fail to see “has” when it should obviously be “had” — that is a particular issue lately. I mean, in my own work. I would probably catch most of those errors in someone else’s manuscript. But I still think I’d be toward the average side of good at proofreading. Hanneke and Linda S. have much more of a knack than I do.

I do think probably everyone here could be a pretty decent proofreader, though. If you want to see how your skill stacks up, here’s a proofreading quiz. I scored 8 out of 10, but I think I was stylistically right about one of those. Oh, here’s another one at the Grammarist blog. This one is too easy and also too much about theory and not enough about practice, imo. Who cares that the standard form of a sentence is subject-verb-object? The point is to catch errors, not look for nonstandard sentences. There are lots of quizzes online that purport to test proofreading skills, it turns out. Here’s another. I think this one offers the most relevant questions for checking proofreading skills.

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Audible promo codes available

BUT, when I took a look at the promo codes that just arrived for TARASHANA, I realized that I actually have a handful of promo codes for each of the books in this series — I didn’t actually realize those codes lasted forever, but there they are, all that haven’t been used previously. I have a few for TUYO and quite a good handful for the others.

So, if you would like a promo code that will let you download an Audible copy of any of these books, let me know! You do not have to be a member of Audible to use a code. You just go to and there’s a box to enter the code. Boom, done, that easy.

I have codes for the US and UK. I don’t see codes that are generic for any country.

Obviously I would appreciate a Audible review if you listen to any of these, particularly aimed at the quality of the listening experience, especially if you enjoy the narration. Which I hope you will!

Audio of Tuyo

Audio of Nikoles

Audio of Tarashana

Audio of Keraunani

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The Good Parts Version

A post at Kill Zone Blog: Cutting the DULL from Your Scenes

We talk a lot here at TKZ about opening pages. We all know how important they are to agents, editors, and readers. But we should think the same way about every scene in our novel. And thus to the topic for today: Cutting the DULL from your scenes. To wit

And then James Scott Bell goes on to identify failures that lead to boredom in the following four categories:

Description Dumps: Always describe your scenes in words that reflect the tone, which you’ll most often find in the mind of the viewpoint character.

Uninteresting Characters: When you think about the scene you’re going to write, plan one action (even if it’s just a line of dialogue) a reader won’t see coming. A good practice is to make a quick list of the things the average reader might expect to happen…then don’t do those things.

Lethargic Action: The story question should involve death stakes (physical, professional, or psychological). Otherwise, why should the reader care?

Leaden Prose: Try things. Make up wild metaphors, not to use (necessarily) but to stretch. Read challenging prose, even in nonfiction. Read poetry out loud.

Well, boring description, characters, action, and prose does pretty much does seem to cover the topic, yes. More at the link, of course, but I was more curious about the proposed solutions, so those are the bits I pulled out. A lot of the time, the solutions to problems like the above are things like Be lively in your writing, which isn’t very helpful. I am, of course, not nearly analytical enough to pause and think Now what is something the reader won’t see coming? I hope I surprise the reader on a pretty consistent basis without having to stop and think about how to surprise the reader.

However, a suggestion to read poetry seems more useful, doesn’t it? That actually seems like a really good suggestion! I like poetry, of course, and perhaps that was useful in developing my ability to write. Yes, certainly, by all means: read poetry to develop a feel for language! Bell suggests Robert W. Service. I have not, to the best of my knowledge, encountered this poet previously. Let me find a poem by Robert W. Service. All right, here:

A Grain Of Sand

If starry space no limit knows
And sun succeeds to sun,
There is no reason to suppose
Our earth the only one.
‘Mid countless constellations cast
A million worlds may be,
With each a God to bless or blast
And steer to destiny.

Just think! A million gods or so
To guide each vital stream,
With over all to boss the show
A Deity supreme.
Such magnitudes oppress my mind;
From cosmic space it swings;
So ultimately glad to find
Relief in little things.

For look! Within my hollow hand,
While round the earth careens,
I hold a single grain of sand
And wonder what it means.
Ah! If I had the eyes to see,
And brain to understand,
I think Life’s mystery might be
Solved in this grain of sand.

All right, I do like that. I just clicked on the first poem title that caught my eye, so I had no idea what to expect. Fine, sure, let’s see what Amazon happens to have available … ah, look at this: here is a book of Robert Service’s collected poetry for $0.99, if you would like a Kindle version. Okay, I’m picking it up because at that price why not. I like something short to read at bedtime, right before I turn off the lights.

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