Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Books that twist sideways

From tor.com: 8 Puzzle Box Books With Surprising Twists and Turns

Now, nothing is going to beat And All the Stars by Andrea K Höst. But sure, lay it on me: what SFF books are you thinking about that suddenly tilt the reader off the expected path?

The Magus by John Fowles

Slade House by David Mitchell

The Seventh Function of Language by Laurent Binet

Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Of these I have read only the last book. When I saw this title, I immediately said ????? because this book does not contain anything that remotely resembles a shocking plot twist. Does it? Should I doubt my memory on this point? What does the author of this post say?

The Road is not a puzzle box book. It has no place on this list. It’s a terrifying dystopic journey, a post-apocalyptic trek of father and son, seemingly the last two good people in a world of char, ash, and soot in various forms

Oh, we have some other metaphorical kind of puzzle or plot twist! Well, that’s cheating, sorry. Having read the author’s explanation for including The Road, nope, still cheating. Click through and read the whole post if you wish, but in the meantime, what are some books that actually no kidding jerk the reader sideways into a plot twist?

Other than And All the Stars?

Well, here’s one:

Here’s part of the description:

In the French Pyrenees, a young married couple is buried under a flash avalanche while skiing. Miraculously, Jake and Zoe dig their way out from under the snow—only to discover the world they knew has been overtaken by an eerie and absolute silence. Their hotel is devoid of another living soul. Cell phones and land lines are cut off. 

The truth isn’t as shocking as the plot twist in And All the Stars, but it’s an effectively creepy story. It worked for me, anyway.

Let me see, what’s another example . . . oh, here’s one, solidly SFF rather than horror.

Sparrow’s my name. Trader. Deal-maker. Hustler, some call me. I work the Night Fair circuit, buying and selling pre-nuke videos from the world before. … But the hottest ticket of all is information on the Horsemen—the mind-control weapons that tilted the balance in the war between the Americas. That’s the prize I’m after.

But it seems I’m having trouble controlling my own mind….

What’s a really startling plot twist you can think of?

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Fun way to start an argument —

Create a list of the ten best English writers of all time.

Who’s on it, do you suppose? I haven’t looked yet; just saw the link at the Passive Voice blog and clicked through.

Shakespeare, Jane Austen and who else? Charlotte Brontë? Are we including poets? Let’s see . . . oh, they excluded Shakespeare as too clearly at the top to need inclusion. It’s the ten best who aren’t Shakespeare.

Yep, Jane Austen. Then William Blake — so poets are eligible — and Chaucer, Dickens — I should have thought of Dickens — John Donne, George Elliot, John Milton, George Orwell — interesting choice! — Harold Pinter, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Gosh, I’ve never heard of Harold Pinter, as far as I can remember. Oh, and I notice Charlotte Brontë isn’t there included. Well, I did not very much like Jane Eyre personally, so that’s fine with me. But who’s Pinter?

Ah, Nobel Prize for literature, a playwrite …

Harold Pinter was first and foremost a writer. The distinctive style and quality of his dramas inspired the epithet ‘Pinteresque’ to describe a use of language that expresses a strange and mysterious situation smouldering with underlying, indefinable, menace.

Interesting! But looking through a list of his plays, nope, none of them ring a bell. Well, he lived practically yesterday — just died in 2008 — not really time-tested compared to most of the others, is he?

I really sort of had the impression Orwell only wrote two novels. You all probably knew he wrote more than just Animal Farm and 1984.

So, anyway, I can think of some English authors I wouldn’t mind seeing on a list of this kind:

JRR Tolkien

CS Lewis

Georgette Heyer

And you know, I’m sort of wondering where Jonathon Swift is, now that I think of it. And Edward Gibbon, too.

Well, of course a list of The Ten Best anything is going to cause a lot of disagreement. If you’d like to check out the disagreement, click through and scan the comments. I don’t believe a single person mentions JRR Tolkien. Fantasy doesn’t count, no matter how important a work, I guess.

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Candidate for Worse Cover Ever

Okay, apparently this is for real? I literally thought it couldn’t be a real cover when Sandstone posted this on Twitter this morning. Take a look:

Have any of you — all of you — read this? Here is the original cover:

Let me provide the Amazon description of this book to you, if you aren’t familiar with it:

Plagued by guilt for failing to protect her king, Rider Wren has fled the city of Gilengaria and given herself the penance of a life of wandering, helping strangers in need. But when chance brings her to the great estate known as Fortune, Wren will find her fate, and finally confront the ghosts of her past.

Quite accurate. Let me add:

a) This is a really great book! The “fifth in a series,” this book actually stands alone just fine and is my favorite in the series. Highly recommended.

b) One of the greatest low-key romances I know of in all of fantasy.

c) Features some of Sharon Shinn’s best writing, including a lovely, possibly flawless ending.

d) Includes no jack-o-lanterns

e) Not the slightest hint of Halloween

f) Not in any way connected to anything remotely similar to Halloween

g) Not a horror novel

h) No, really, not the faintest echo of horror at any point

That cover! I can’t believe it!

Let me type “fantasy” into the search bar at Unsplash, a website that makes photos available for free. Okay, here is the very first photo that pops up in response to that search:

This castle is a thousand times more appropriate for Fortune and Fate than that jack-o-lantern cover! It’s all wrong, sure, but at least there is an important big manor house in the novel. A big manor house is sort of reminiscent of a castle. The concept “manor house” and “castle” are in the same general category!

There is not only no connection whatsoever between the story and that jack-o-lantern cover, there is actually an anti-connection! The cover is so extraordinarily misleading that throwing a dart at fantasy covers and picking one at random was truly three orders of magnitude — at least — better than that jack-o-lantern cover!

This is such a bad cover it would be funny, except that it really isn’t funny. What a terrible thing to do to a good author and an excellent book!

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Expository dialogue: The good, the bad, and the unnoticeable

Here’s a post by James Scott Bell at Kill Zone Blog: The Curse of Expository Dialogue

Bell advises:

Do not have characters reveal information that both characters already know. Here’s a ham-fisted example of what I mean:

“Sally! I didn’t expect to find you here at Central Market.”

“I often come here at lunchtime, Molly. Doing research for the senior partners at Dewey, Cheatham & Howe really creates an appetite.”

“Does your husband know his petite, thirty-year old wife enjoys greasy hamburgers?”

“Bill? What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. Being a cop on the street, he has enough to worry about.

This is, of course, good advice, which is why there is a term for this. As you probably know, this type of dialogue problem is referred to with the phrase, “As you know, Bob.”

Bell adds, “On the other hand, dialogue can be used to reveal information when the info is hidden within a tense exchange.

That’s true too, certainly. Bell provides an example. However, I don’t believe the exchange needs to be at all tense; it just needs to be better written than as-you-know-Bob dialogue. This is not difficult, and you can do it without the characters necessarily saying much because their actions can speak for them.

I mean, you probably remember these three specific lines in Memory by LMB:

“Miles! Thank God you’re here.”

He heard Illyan’s voice, for a change more amiable than stressed“Ivan, you idiot. What are you doing here?”

“Lady Alys!” His face softened. “What are you doing here?”

You don’t need prior knowledge of Ilyan and his relationships with all these people to get an immediate sense of each of those relationships. Rather than naked dialogue, you get just a bit of description. Bujod has such talent with movement tags in dialogue — or in this case, descriptive tags. His face softened. Poof, we’ve foreshadowed the relationship between Ilyan and Alys, even though such a thing was never previously suggested in the series.

Nor is there any need to worry about tension if you think about using expository dialogue in any situation where one of the characters is legitimately explaining something the other does not know. That’s one of the great advantages a naive protagonist gives you! Think of Moon in the Raksura series. One of the reasons Moon works so well as the protagonist is that he knows literally nothing about his own people, exactly as the reader knows nothing about them. There’s all kinds of expository dialogue and it’s not the least problem because (a) Martha Wells is a good writer, and (b) Moon needs a lot of explanations for a perfectly natural reason.

So honestly, I think picking on “expository writing” when you mean “this little subset of “as you know, Bob” expository writing is kind of unfair.

This made me look around for expository writing in a book of mine. I have this manuscript sitting here, so let me just skim the opening scene. … Okay, how about this:

He looked at me and then at one of his people who had come up beside him. He said to that man, “We must have pressed them even harder than we knew if they’ve left a tuyo for us. I suppose this must be the son of an important Ugaro lord, but he seems merely a boy.”

I must have jerked in outrage, for he turned quickly to look at me again. I said, speaking carefully in darau  “Lord, I have nineteen winters, so I am not a boy either by your law or ours. You should accept me as tuyo. No one could set any fault against you for it.”

I think we get a lot of worldbuilding from this tiny snippet — information about both characters, too. There’s absolutely no need for either character to say, or think, “As you know, among both Ugaro and Lau, nineteen is considered adult.” There’s an implication that the age of adulthood might be different for the two peoples, but there’s no need to say so or explain what that difference might be. Those details are not important here. It’s quite clear that this “tuyo” concept is fraught. Later that term is spelled out more explicitly through dialogue. I don’t think anybody is going to find that exposition boring either:

“I’m not entirely familiar with the nuances of the tuyo custom. Sit up and look at me, Ryo inGara, and tell me: what is the usual manner of death for a tuyo?”

Exposition is not remotely off-limits in dialogue. If the dialogue is not working, that’s not because it’s being used as a vehicle for explanations or descriptions; it’s always bad for some other reason. The dialogue may be bad because it’s boring or stilted or artificial or unnecessary or clumsy or whatever. That problem, whatever it may be, should be addressed. If bad dialogue contains exposition, then both the dialogue and the exposition should be reconsidered.

But if the exposition works in the dialogue, then the reader won’t even notice it and certainly won’t be bothered. The dialogue will establish the characters and/or move the plot and/or contribute to the tension AND provide explanation or description, and the reader will zip right through it and be drawn straight through the scene without a hitch.

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SFF women on the high seas

From tor.com: 6 SFF Books Featuring Women on the High Seas

I don’t specifically seek out pirate stories or whatever, but sure, let’s see what this list features … I’ve read only one: The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke. It’s a bit unbelievable at times, but I liked it. A couple of the others have been on my radar for a while, but I haven’t read them. Has anybody read A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab? That’s one I keep meaning to try.

Others on this list: Seafire by Natalie C. Parker, Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller, Lady Smoke by Laura Sebastian, and The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig.

So, that’s six. It seems to me that it should be pretty easy to get to ten, especially if you drop the requirement for piracy and just go with high seas. For example, here’s an obvious choice:

Althea Vestrit is kind of an immature idiot, and that was a problem for me, but the world is neat and Robin Hobb is a great writer in a lot of ways. The Liveship Traders series certainly features plenty of high seas adventure, no question about that.

Here’s another:

One minute, twenty-four-year-old Sophie Hansa is in a San Francisco alley trying to save the life of the aunt she has never known. The next, she finds herself flung into the warm and salty waters of an unfamiliar world. 

I haven’t tried this one yet, but it’s been on my radar enough that I remembered it at once when I thought about fantasy adventure on the high seas.

Okay, stepping back from the woman-pirate theme a little farther:

This is the second book of the INDA series, by Sherwood Smith. Inda may be the main character, but there are a lot of great female characters and a lot of high seas adventure and besides that this is just a fantastic epic fantasy series, probably one of the best I’ve ever read.

It’s annoying to me how many people use “SFF” when they mean “fantasy,” and I know there are different way to define “SFF” to make it okay to exclude science fiction. But still. Space opera is a lot like high seas adventure, with the most obvious contender obviously being:

Honor Harrington is the opposite of a pirate, but since the space battles are specifically designed to call to mind battles on the high seas, this is a series that clearly ought to be included in this list.

But if you insist on space opera piracy, then there’s plenty of that out there too, like this one:

The galaxy has seen great empires rise and fall. Planets have shattered and been remade. Amongst the ruins of alien civilizations, building our own from the rubble, humanity still thrives. And there are vast fortunes to be made, if you know where to find them.

Captain Rackamore and his crew do. It’s their business to find the tiny, enigmatic worlds which have been hidden away, booby-trapped, surrounded by layers of protection–and to crack them open for the ancient relics and barely-remembered technologies inside. But while they ply their risky trade with integrity, not everyone is so scrupulous.

Adrana and Fura Ness are the newest members of Rackamore’s crew, signed on to save their family from bankruptcy. Only Rackamore has enemies, and there might be more waiting for them in space than adventure and fortune…

So there you go, a science fiction piracy novel featuring women, this one definitely fits the original theme.

My pick of all these is certainly the INDA series. I think it would be really hard to beat. But I’m sure there are a hundred other excellent pirate / high seas types of stories out there, both SF and fantasy. If you’ve got a favorite high seas adventure tale, drop it in the comments!

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Brilliant villains

Elaine T says in a recent comment:

The Teen and I recently have been discussing villains recently…. As far as we can tell, based on books, anime, and movies, what makes a villain satisfying to us is intelligence. We’ve been watching the anime One Piece which has lots of villains, some who might be more antagonists than villains, and they’re all different, almost all satisfying in their challenge for the main characters. So we were poking at what made them so good and decided all the good ones are smart: One runs a large organization and has plans, backup plans, and just-in-case-Murphy-strikes plans. Beaten by assorted characters not giving up and by the hero coming after him at the last in a battleground where his primary combat capabilities were useless. We have no idea of his past, there is almost no backstory for him, and what tidbits come out come up long after his starring role. We do know his present day motivation – he wants something hidden in the country he tried to take over.

You admire his capability but want to see him fall.

Another is an engineer and master of electricity, goes, again, for redundancy, and thinks very fast. Almost beaten by cleverness, but reacted too fast before dying. beaten by something he never knew existed – a perfect insulator – so couldn’t plan around. To the place he took over, he came out of nowhere like the thunder he controlled. What he wanted, in the end, was a resource they were abundant in. Material to build his spaceship – it’s a long story and it doesn’t make sense outside his head. He’s a lunatic with a god complex and power to back it up.

We see his followers first, his ‘priests’ and we meet them hounding a man to death. Sets the tone for him and his followers, especially when he vaporizes their fugitive, and they complain about him spoiling their fun. The nature of his subordinates says a great deal about their ‘god.’

You admire his ability to recognize and adapt to threats, and satisfied when he gets his due at last.

A third and one the Teen says is magnificent in his villainy: tortured by mob at age 8 and promised death to everyone involved in it; commits patricide (while his father is kneeling and holding his younger brother) at age 10 in retribution for what his father had inflicted on the family as he sees it. Upon his former peers throwing him out when he brought them his father’s severed head (still at age 10), he didn’t sit quietly, he escaped with blackmail material so he could get something like the status he used to have from them anyway, and declared his intention to destroy the world that his former peers ruled. And set out to do exactly that. Now adult, he murdered his brother when his brother betrayed him – love between them went only so far. And proceeded to take over the nation his ancestors had ruled, by enslaving everyone who’d ever opposed him, and removed them from the memories of all who ever knew them. With the memory of them went the grudges relating to him. His country is considered a beautiful place – until you learn the truth. Almost a fairy tale kingdom. He takes in children – those who are like he was.

By the time he is toppled, he is pulling the strings behind most of the powerbrokers in the world and has his fingers in every single pie. By toppling him a power vaccuum has been created and the world is thrown into chaos. As more and more unfolded about him, past and present, two things became clear:

1) his past excused nothing, but where he learned some of what he learned and how held the power he now has was all too clear.

2) he’s irredeemably evil now in a glorious depravity, magnificent, hated and admired in equal measure. you want to see him toppled, but you don’t because that would mean it’s over. His envy is unsurpassable, his arrogance knows no bounds, his fury is the fury of the wronged. in a complicated ball of motivations, grudges, and flamboyance. Willing to commit genocide to keep word from getting out when at last a linchpin of his plans comes undone. In his introduction he waltzed into the place that had once been his home, and is seen with glee and amusement laughing as he forces people to fight to the death for his amusement. With extra relish as they realize they can’t control their own bodies. You hate him, you know he’s evil, you want to see him fall. But (Teen says) you can’t help but admire his style as he flaunts everything in the faces of those he hates.

3) even chained imobile in prison he’s still pulling strings and considering when and how to spill his blackmail.

So – intelligence, planning, pro-activity, – I guess that sums up to be a worthy opponent – oh, and…

I remember a historical series where we finally got the villain’s backstory, and the general reaction among those I know who were reading it, was “that’s it? That’s garbage!” Everything implied about the character in the backstory contradicted what we saw every time he was on stage. And there was no way he could have plausibly gone from what was claimed of him to what we saw.

Lastly, character coherence. If the backstory undercuts the on-the -page presentation, there goes the killer villain. But you don’t need a backstory, just smarts.

This was too good and extensive to leave just in a comment, so here it is, up front in a post.

There’s a lot to this comment, and it’s true that sheer intelligence in a villain can be a great thing; also sheer competence; also great power; also unswerving commitment.

Let me think of some villains who appeal to me and see how the above criteria fit.

Has everyone read The Fianovar Tapestry by GGK? Remember Galadan, the Wolf Lord? The Dark Lord in the series is Rakoth Maugrim, who is not very interesting. Galadan is much more interesting. He is not brilliant; his thing is definitely sheer commitment. Galadan’s personal goal is to destroy the world, out of rage that his “true love” rejected him in favor of a mortal and then died. That sort of thing is not about the love object, of course, it’s really about the narcissism of the lover who was rejected, but my point is, Galadan was really dedicated to his goal. Until, at the end, defeated, he accepts defeat and chooses a different course; for me, one of the most affecting scenes in the story.

Other villains who work for me:

Doro in Octavia E Butler’s Wildseed and on through Mind of My Mind. Doro is also extremely committed, in his case to the goal of breeding people until he gets someone like him, except of course when he finally sort of comes close to success, he can’t bear having created rivals because he’s too used to holding complete power himself.

We know quite a bit about Doro — about his early life and the tragedy that took him young, and about his gradual mastery of his power. We can understand his disregard for any life other than his own, his profound selfishness, his assumption of superiority. We can sympathize with all that, or at least I can, even when he is doing pretty terrible things to people. I love Doro. But no matter how much the reader loves him as a character and sympathizes with him, I think any reader is going to have to be glad when he is finally pulled down and destroyed.

Another villain who worked for me was The Man With the Thistledown Hair, from Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. Not intelligence there either, but poetry and creepiness. This is a villain who is completely self-absorbed and has zero comprehension of human concepts like, I don’t know, compassion and justice and so on. Not sympathetic at all, but so beautifully horrifying.

I honestly can’t think right now of any complicated, well-drawn villain in SFF who worked for me because he was just that competent and/or intelligence. I’m not sure that’s a very important criterion for me — for villains. Instead, I like protagonists who are very intelligence, very competent, and very ruthless, but who are not villains. I’m thinking here of Nicholas Valliard, but this is a type I like a lot and I’m sure there are others.

Can the rest of you think of a favorite villain, and where does he or she fall in sheer intelligence and/or competence?

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How to write a villain

From Jane Friedman’s blog: How to Write a Killer Villain

You can’t have a good thriller without a nasty and formidable opponent for your hero. But it isn’t enough to just write a character and call him “the bad guy.” Just as it’s important to create a well-rounded, three-dimensional hero, you must create a villain who is well-developed and not just your standard killer, robber, or kidnapper.

I actually disagree!

Sometimes the emphasis is on the, call it the relationship even if they never or seldom meet till the end, so, yeah — the relationship between the protagonist and the antagonist may be central. In those cases, the antagonist is super important and having a complicated, well-developed villain with a complex, fleshed-out backstory is also probably important. But sometimes the emphasis is somewhere else, and in those cases it can work fine for the author to just handwave the villain.

Take Point of Hopes, for a great example I read recently. The villain was absolutely unimportant. He just barely steps on stage long enough to be defeated at the end. The important things in this book are the worldbuilding and the various non-villain characters. The villain, nope. Is this a flaw in the book? Could be seen that way, sure, depends on what you like in a story. If you’re interested primarily in the development of the relationships between the non-villain characters and in the worldbuilding, then a flat, undeveloped villain may well work for you. Often that works for me. Often, in fact, it’s what I prefer.

Let’s think of some of the stories I’ve most loved and admired this past decade. These are in no order, just tossed on the list in the order they occur to me.

The Freedom’s Gate trilogy by Naomi Kritzer — I don’t remember anything about the villain. Well, that’s overstating the case, but very little. The focus is so much on Lauria and Tamar and a variety of secondary characters, not on the villain(s).

Hild by Nicola Griffith — there’s no villain as such, though there are people who are dangerous and difficult and powerful.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison — the villain is trivial. I mean, unpleasant, sure, but trivial. The person who sabotaged the airship in the first place, setting everything in motion, is interesting and complex, but we only see him for the space of one conversation. It’s an unsettling conversation for Maia, but I don’t think you could possibly describe this person as well-rounded or well-developed as a character. His role is important for setting the plot in motion, but he is not a strong presence as a character.

The Wings of Fire series by Tui Sutherland — here, the ultimate villain is interesting and well-developed. Sympathetic, even! This is probably the best example of a well-developed villain with a backstory in this set of selections. This is true even though the main focus is on relationships among the protagonists.

That was just a random selection of books I’ve loved, but yes, I would say that well-rounded, well-developed, complicated villains are not very important to me.

In fact, one of the things I hate most in almost every case is chapters from the villain’s point of view. I detest those and often skip them. When I don’t skip them, I would like to and I’m on the edge of doing it.

Of course you can see that in my own books, where I usually go for creepy and evocative villains rather than villains who are actual fleshed-out characters. Lilienne, for example. The Wyvern King. I’m not interested in developing those villains as people, I’m interested in developing the protagonists and the worlds, with the villains as the problem and the foil, not really as characters in their own right.

Of course, that’s me. Maybe some of you are most pleased by stories in which the villain is much more central as a character, even if that means that the worldbuilding takes a bit of a back seat. How about it? On a scale of one to ten, where one is a completely unimportant antagonist as in Point of Hopes and ten is the villain getting as much screen time as the protagonist, where do you come down?

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Outlaw snowballs!

This, at Kill Zone Blog, is funny: Snowballing Out of Control

In December, 2019, the Wisconsin town of Wausau outlawed throwing snowballs, classifying them in the same category of weapons as “arrows, stones, or other missiles or projectiles.”

Ha ha ha! Way to go, Wausau, you have now made complete strangers several states away think you are a ridiculous town. Outlawing snowball fights! Because snowballs are like arrows! Yes, I clearly remember how the Norman crossbowmen at Hastings mowed down the English with snowballs. Why, even today my neighbors take advantage of snowball season to take a deer every winter. With those deadly snowballs, it’s important to hit a deer just right so it doesn’t stagger off to die slowly of blood loss.

Yes, I’m aware that under exactly the right conditions an ice-packed snowball could in theory cause someone to say ow. But good heavens, outlawing snowball fights!

Recovering from the same insanity:

In a triumph of youthful activism, a 9-year-old mover-and-shaker from Severance, Colorado convinced members of the town meeting to overturn an ordinance banning snowball fights. Now that the activity is legal, young influencer Dane Best intends to throw his first snowball at an appropriate target—his little brother.

Good for young Dane!

My favorite fictional snowball fight occurs in The Touchstone Trilogy by Andrea K  Höst. I guess when you’ve just been fighting monsters that really want to kill you, snowballs might not seem quite so deadly.

Oh, hey, going to her website to copy the o-with-an-umlaut so I could paste it in above, I discovered this: A 10,000-word Touchstone story called “Snow Day,” just went up at the end of December. How about that? Completely appropriate for this post.

If you don’t use a Kindle, Andrea has links to all ebook formats at her website, here.

I wish we’d get real snow here in southern Missouri — preferably coming down starting dusk Friday evening and stopping Sunday morning, to give the road crews time to clear the roads for Monday. We had some nice snow last year. I’d love to see real snow this winter, not just an ice glaze followed by a tenth of an inch of snow, as we had here earlier this week. The dogs all love snow and I enjoy watching them run and play in it.

Okay, so — favorite snowball fight, or snow sport of any variety, in SFF? Any spring to mind? Drop ’em in the comments.

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Stories that take place during a single night

This post at Book Riot caught my eye: 3 OF THE BEST YA BOOKS SET IN A SINGLE NIGHT

Perhaps because of recently reading One Night in Boukos, and let me ask, have you all read that one yet? Because honestly, very charming story. To be sure, the action in that one does in fact take place over the course of one whole day and night, plus just a bit, but still, the action is very condensed.

I haven’t read any of the Book Riot choices for this category —

Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks

White Rabbit by Calem Roehrig

I’m Not Dying With You Tonight by Gilly Segal and Kimberly Jones

And wow, that last title is not exactly inviting. Oh, I see from the description that it’s a “get home alive together” story, not a “let’s commit suicide” story, which was my immediate impression just from the title. Well, that’s fine, then, but I would not recommend a title that can be so easily read the way I read it.

White Rabbit is a solve-the-murder-mystery-or-else story. That sounds like it could be good.

And Pumpkinheads is a graphic novel. I like Rainbow Rowell a great deal, but relatively few graphic novels work that well for me. Sandman and not much else, really. A few others, but not enough to tempt me to pick up a graphic novel by an author just because I like her novels. Of course if you like graphic novels, here you go.

Those three are all contemporary YA, unlike One Night in Boukos.

I have read at least one more YA that did take place all in one night, and it was quite good, too. It was contemporary-ish, but with a twist:

The Deathday Letter by Shaun David Hutchinson

Ollie can’t be bothered to care about anything but girls until he gets his Deathday Letter and learns he’s going to die in twenty-four hours. Bummer.

Ollie does what he does best: nothing. Then his best friend convinces him to live a little, and go after Ronnie, the girl who recently trampled his about-to-expire heart. Ollie turns to carloads of pudding and over-the-top declarations, but even playing the death card doesn’t work. All he wants is to set things right with the girl of his dreams. It’s now or never…

See, the world is just like ours except you get a letter twenty-four hours before you die, informing you of the coming event. (This is just magic, not explained.) You then have 24 hours to sort out anything in your life that might need sorting out.

I liked this story quite a bit, and of course the frenetic pace is absolutely intrinsic to the story in that case. No possible way to tell it gently and slowly.

What other stories can you think of that take place entirely during one night, or one 24-hour period, or otherwise during a very compressed period of time? I’m sure there must be more.

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When fonts fight, Times New Roman conquers

From The Guardian: When fonts fight, Times New Roman conquers

[A]uthor Sean Richardson had asked the internet to “reveal the deepest part of yourself: Which font and which size do you write in?”, little realising he was about to open a Pandora’s box of preference and prejudice.

This is funny. Also, it’s true.

Not only do I write exclusively in Times New Roman, but I can’t stand other fonts. If someone sends me a document in anything else, I immediately hit Control-A and change the font to Times New Roman. Then I double-space the document. THEN I am prepared to read the thing, whatever it may be.

I suspect I am adamant about this because I spend *so much* time looking at words on a screen that when I say, “I’m used to Times New Roman,” I mean, “No, really used to it. Honestly, this is how typed words should look.”

I know that’s a little over the top. Nevertheless: Times New Roman only. I especially detest all sans-sarif fonts.

You know I’m teaching a class this semester, for the first time in forever. I’m going to describe lab reports today and assign one next week, and yes indeed, I will be saying: Write this sucker in Times New Roman, font size 12, and do not get creative on this. Reserve your creativity for other aspects of your life.

This was basically the Twitter response, though it wasn’t uniform.

Arial 12 pt, replied Poirot novelist and bestselling crime author Sophie Hannah. For Hugo-winning American science fiction author John Scalzi, it’s Georgia, 12-point, single-spaced, and “when I’m done, I double-space the entire document and put it into Courier, again 12pt”. For the Canadian fantasy novelist Guy Gavriel Kay it’s “New Century Schoolbook 12 … because I am young and cool”.

But then the surge for Times New Roman began

Click through and read the whole thing … if you find font wars interesting, of course!

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