Thursday, February 27, 2014

Genre Fiction Should Be Taught More In English Classes

(Note: I originally wrote this essay for a dual-credit English 101 class.  It was later printed in a shortened form in my local newspaper under the High School Highlights section (I have about three, usually shorter, articles printed per month).  I'm counting it as a "writing post.")

           On my blog, Into The Ravenous Maw, I posted a list of writing concepts I learned outside of English class.  Most of them are staples of writing genre fiction that are never taught in high school.  English education is heavily skewed toward the literary side of writing, with little regard to the other half: genre fiction.  Genre fiction deserves to be taught alongside literary and mainstream fiction in English classes.  It helps to develop your voice as a writer, can be a massive freelance money-maker, is important to pop culture, teaches you some important terminology, and is a great way to express emotion and philosophy.
Writing genre fiction helps develop your voice as a writer.  This principle applies to both writing fiction and nonfiction.  Have you ever read an article in National Geographic?  While National Geographic is a highly regarded publication for scholars, it is far too dry for most readers.  It lacks voice and substance.  Literary fiction is generally poetic to some degree, which is a nice element of voice, yet genre fiction is where you will find the freshest, cleverest, and liveliest of writer voices.  If nothing else, writing genre fiction allows your voice to be found if it does not align with the voices of most writers of literary fiction.
Doing freelance genre fiction writing can earn you a pretty penny.  Some literary and mainstream fiction publishers pay as well, but the payment is often less.  The average seems to be about $50 for a short story.  Agni pays 1-4.9 cents per word, according to its website.  A story published in Ploughshares, a magazine out of Emerson College, will earn you a maximum of $250.  Very few journals and magazines pay more than that for non-genre works.  On the flip side, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction pays 7-11 cents per word.  Another major genre fiction magazine, Asimov’s Science Fiction, pays 7-9 cents per word for short stories.  Longer manuscripts average $5,000 in advance payment, plus royalties, regardless of genre.  Writers are much more likely to sell short fiction than novels, so that fact can be easily overlooked.
Genre fiction is substantial in pop culture.  Think of Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Twilight.  They have all made splashes on bookshelves and in cinemas.  Having basic knowledge of these series, better yet having read them, allows for intelligent conversation with your peers.  Do people talk about the non-genre classics?  Yes, sometimes, although when was the last time someone opened a conversation with, “Have you read The Prince and the Pauper”?  Genre fiction is big right now.  Do not isolate yourself from your friends by neglecting to read the latest craze, or at least the back cover.
While other genres can express emotion, genre fiction does it with the most potency.  If you want to make your readers squirm or scare them to death, Horror is the way to go.  Pure Romance allows for sweet or sensual passages unobtainable in a straight-literary story.  The main reason for the punch of emotion in genre fiction is its tendency to be character-driven.  Once you are in the viewpoint character’s head, getting you to feel what they feel is a lot easier.  Literary and mainstream writing tends to focus more on the beauty of the words and descriptions, a condition called stained-glass writing, rather than plot, setting, and characters, the main concern in translucent writing.  You may feel a sense of majesty when reading a classic; but if you want to feel something else, genre fiction is a better choice.
Orson Scott Card is a master of philosophical science-fiction.  If you want to present a philosophical dilemma, writing in his style is one of the best ways to do it.  The character-driven nature of genre fiction, especially of the softer science-fiction subgenres, allows you to make deep comments involving our world and the human condition.  This is not to be confused with “theme.”  While some genre fiction utilizes theme, literary and mainstream fiction use it far more.  Card’s books Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind ask philosophical questions without truly answering them; themes assert a correct answer to a question.  The same technique can be used when delving into a controversial topic.  Non-genre fiction tends to show bias, whereas genre fiction can create separation from the issue or topic being portrayed through the use of “alien” characters, concepts, etc.  Genre fiction can also create its own philosophical questions.  One of the main questions throughout the Enderverse books (Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind) is whether eradicating another sentient species is ethical.  We have yet to discover any non-human species that is definitively self-aware; therefore, non-genre fiction cannot pose that question.  The question is still legitimate because it is possible.  Science-fiction is within a subset of genre fiction called “speculative fiction.”  Speculative fiction asks “What if?” inherently.  Other fiction genres have trouble doing the same.
There are many terms associated with genre fiction that are rarely used otherwise.  If they are never taught in school, trying to understand writers of genre fiction will be frustrating.  Take “M.I.C.E. Quotient” for example.  It is a reference to the four basic types of plot: milieu/setting, idea, character, and event.  When in conversation with someone who says they are writing an “idea story,” having a clue what that means will surely prove beneficial.  Many of these terms, while rarely taught alongside non-genre fiction, can apply there as well.  There are zero valid reasons to omit such terms in standard English education.
In order to post to my blog what I post, I have had to do my own research into writing genre fiction.  English class has helped me with my literary criticisms and flash fiction pieces in the literary and mainstream genres, to some degree, but has given me little support elsewhere.  If genre fiction was taught more in English class, I would have saved dozens of hours of research that could have been spent on writing.  Besides that, the writing ability of my peers is visibly lacking due to a one-sided English education.  A change needs to be made.On my blog, Into The Ravenous Maw, I posted a list of writing concepts I learned outside of English class.  Most of them are staples of writing genre fiction that are never taught in high school.  English education is heavily skewed toward the literary side of writing, with little regard to the other half: genre fiction.  Genre fiction deserves to be taught alongside literary and mainstream fiction in English classes.  It helps to develop your voice as a writer, can be a massive freelance money-maker, is important to pop culture, teaches you some important terminology, and is a great way to express emotion and philosophy.
Writing genre fiction helps develop your voice as a writer.  This principle applies to both writing fiction and nonfiction.  Have you ever read an article in National Geographic?  While National Geographic is a highly regarded publication for scholars, it is far too dry for most readers.  It lacks voice and substance.  Literary fiction is generally poetic to some degree, which is a nice element of voice, yet genre fiction is where you will find the freshest, cleverest, and liveliest of writer voices.  If nothing else, writing genre fiction allows your voice to be found if it does not align with the voices of most writers of literary fiction.
Doing freelance genre fiction writing can earn you a pretty penny.  Some literary and mainstream fiction publishers pay as well, but the payment is often less.  The average seems to be about $50 for a short story.  Agni pays 1-4.9 cents per word, according to its website.  A story published in Ploughshares, a magazine out of Emerson College, will earn you a maximum of $250.  Very few journals and magazines pay more than that for non-genre works.  On the flip side, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction pays 7-11 cents per word.  Another major genre fiction magazine, Asimov’s Science Fiction, pays 7-9 cents per word for short stories.  Longer manuscripts average $5,000 in advance payment, plus royalties, regardless of genre.  Writers are much more likely to sell short fiction than novels, so that fact can be easily overlooked.
Genre fiction is substantial in pop culture.  Think of Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Twilight.  They have all made splashes on bookshelves and in cinemas.  Having basic knowledge of these series, better yet having read them, allows for intelligent conversation with your peers.  Do people talk about the non-genre classics?  Yes, sometimes, although when was the last time someone opened a conversation with, “Have you read The Prince and the Pauper”?  Genre fiction is big right now.  Do not isolate yourself from your friends by neglecting to read the latest craze, or at least the back cover.
While other genres can express emotion, genre fiction does it with the most potency.  If you want to make your readers squirm or scare them to death, Horror is the way to go.  Pure Romance allows for sweet or sensual passages unobtainable in a straight-literary story.  The main reason for the punch of emotion in genre fiction is its tendency to be character-driven.  Once you are in the viewpoint character’s head, getting you to feel what they feel is a lot easier.  Literary and mainstream writing tends to focus more on the beauty of the words and descriptions, a condition called stained-glass writing, rather than plot, setting, and characters, the main concern in translucent writing.  You may feel a sense of majesty when reading a classic; but if you want to feel something else, genre fiction is a better choice.
Orson Scott Card is a master of philosophical science-fiction.  If you want to present a philosophical dilemma, writing in his style is one of the best ways to do it.  The character-driven nature of genre fiction, especially of the softer science-fiction subgenres, allows you to make deep comments involving our world and the human condition.  This is not to be confused with “theme.”  While some genre fiction utilizes theme, literary and mainstream fiction use it far more.  Card’s books Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind ask philosophical questions without truly answering them; themes assert a correct answer to a question.  The same technique can be used when delving into a controversial topic.  Non-genre fiction tends to show bias, whereas genre fiction can create separation from the issue or topic being portrayed through the use of “alien” characters, concepts, etc.  Genre fiction can also create its own philosophical questions.  One of the main questions throughout the Enderverse books (Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind) is whether eradicating another sentient species is ethical.  We have yet to discover any non-human species that is definitively self-aware; therefore, non-genre fiction cannot pose that question.  The question is still legitimate because it is possible.  Science-fiction is within a subset of genre fiction called “speculative fiction.”  Speculative fiction asks “What if?” inherently.  Other fiction genres have trouble doing the same.
There are many terms associated with genre fiction that are rarely used otherwise.  If they are never taught in school, trying to understand writers of genre fiction will be frustrating.  Take “M.I.C.E. Quotient” for example.  It is a reference to the four basic types of plot: milieu/setting, idea, character, and event.  When in conversation with someone who says they are writing an “idea story,” having a clue what that means will surely prove beneficial.  Many of these terms, while rarely taught alongside non-genre fiction, can apply there as well.  There are zero valid reasons to omit such terms in standard English education.
In order to post to my blog what I post, I have had to do my own research into writing genre fiction.  English class has helped me with my literary criticisms and flash fiction pieces in the literary and mainstream genres, to some degree, but has given me little support elsewhere.  If genre fiction was taught more in English class, I would have saved dozens of hours of research that could have been spent on writing.  Besides that, the writing ability of my peers is visibly lacking due to a one-sided English education.  A change needs to be made.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Dune

I wasn't sure how Dune was going to sit with me, since it was published way back in 1965.  It sat very well.  Besides the strange POV that never really caught on, I could hardly tell that "6" in the pub year wasn't an "8."

The characters in Dune are extremely intelligent.  This allowed the story to flow in a wonderful stream of suave, calculating tone and speculative prowess.  They were both relatable and awesome, which is pretty much the highest achievement for standard characters.  The antagonist earned sufficient resentment without seeming like an utter buffoon (although not exactly "smart" either).  Having militarymen serve as primary characters definitely worked for me considering the space opera setting.

As you may guess, most of the story takes place on a desert planet known informally as "Dune."  It won't please fans of hard sci-fi, but for everyone else the high-tech and fascinating environment will enthrall pretty much every fan of the other sci-fi subgenres.

This story has an atypical plot to match the atypical POV.  It's what Orson Scott Card would call a "character story," but it uses the plot device for multiple characters, some involved more heavily than others.  As the novel progresses, the characters change drastically, and so does the conflict.  Conflict is rather low at the beginning, but foreshadowing is high, which balances things out.  Oh, and there's some dramatic irony.  I love it.

I don't give 5/5 star reviews on goodreads often, but I had to do it here.  The true score is about 95%, one of the highest I've ever assigned.  There are many reasons this book won a Hugo and a Nebula.  If you haven't done so already, please go out and read this masterpiece from the late Frank Herbert.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Another Zombie Elephant Assault

     A deathly trumpeting resonated throughout the camp.  The massive bulk of the beast followed close behind it, crushing the palisade wall.  One fleshless hoof crushed our forward guard.  “Attack,” he’d bellowed with his final breath.
     I tore out of the central garrison building, holding my warhammer high.  Two men flanked me on each side.  Their faces were almost as pale as the zombie’s patchy skin.
     “We’ll all strike at once,” I said, maintaining a sprint.  “Smash its left foreleg, as hard as you can.”
     The zombified elephant swept a single man away before collapsing, its leg shattered.  I silenced it.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

To Read YA or Adult?

     Avid readers in their teenage years are struck with an eminent problem: Should I read young adult or adult?  While the latter route is “the road less traveled by”, both lead to entertainment.  Each path has its own spread of diversity, an ever-changing flow of blacktop to gravel to earth.  The intricacies of each category are often mocked or copied cross-ways, yet the best are utterly redone.
     Content on the young adult shelf resembles its adult cousin quite a bit.  Both should be monitored before release to young children, as neither are edited for content.  However, that isn’t to say that none are kept clean.  Constant changes plague both shelves with market shifts abound.  Tales of romance have found a home in both bookstore corners.  The reputation amassed by both is high, albeit faltering with the ages.  Self-publishing has invaded adult and young adult markets alike, causing an even drop in average quality.  Although the audience leans in one direction in all books, some adults read young adult and some young adults read adult.  In fact, 55% of young adult is read by adults according to npr.org. 
     Many other aspects are as different as night and day.  Other genres differ between categories.  Dystopian science fiction is big at the moment, while paperback thrillers and romances sell the most in adult.  Overall, young adult books sell more than adult.  Young adult novels tend to be simpler than adult, although there are exceptions.  Along the same lines, the quality of young adult writing is lower than adult.  Protagonists’ ages generally reflect the audience’s, pushing the adult ages far higher.  In most cases, Rule of Writing #1 (show don’t tell) is respected to a lesser degree in young adult.  Young adult series’ popularity is established by crazes regularly.  The converse’s popularity stems from advertising and entertainment value.  Coming of Age stories tend to be young adult.  The cast size is larger in adult more often than not, as pointed out by romanceuniverstity.org.  There is a higher rate of 1st-person point-of-view in young adult and 3rd-person in adult.  There are many exceptions to any general statements, creating a grey area.
     The key marketing ages overlap in the grey area.  For young adult, it’s roughly 13-22.  For adult, it’s anywhere over 18.  Neither fully suites the 18-22 crowd.  The genres are therefore concurrent at that point.  Recently, a new category has emerged in the grey: New Adult.  New Adult novels usually detail the conflicts of the college-aged.  Some books cannot be defined as young adult, New Adult, or adult.  The Enderverse and Wheel of Time series are examples.
     While a decision must be made book-to-book on which type to read, few consequences are found in either choice.  Read what you want.  Mix it up sometimes.  In reading, you can’t go wrong.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Blurb of Weaver by JA Ellis

I'm going to do something interesting this time around for my literary criticism: critique the blurb for the novel release I helped out with yesterday, JA Ellis' novel Weaver.

Here it is again:

"As a Weaver, Myra Castor has always depended on her ability to read the lines of the universe, and create new possibilities in the fabric of reality to keep her footing in a world that most people have no control over. But when she hears that her mentor, Susan, has died of a heart attack, Myra's world begins to fall apart.

Before Myra can process the news, Jack, another of Susan's students - and Myra's former lover - appears on her doorstep. He tells her Susan's death wasn't a heart attack, and when he shows Myra an anomaly - a hole in the universe - that leads to a dead world full of ghosts, Myra begins to question her perception of reality. She knows that without intervention, the lines holding the universe together will unbind, and slip away into oblivion, and their world will cease to exist.

Together, Myra and Jack work their way through the anomalies riddling their part of the universe, searching for a portal that will bring them closer to the source of the chaos. But an ambush ending in tragedy sends Myra across the universe in a desperate bid to save her world."

I don't read very many blurbs, but this is one of the better ones I've read.  Some may consider it overbearing compared to back cover blurbs on most novels, but I like the depth behind it.

Using the title, a very important term for the book, as the third word was the right choice.  It gives the blurb a professional feel, throwing you right into the story.  Giving the protagonist's name directly afterword allows that feel to continue on as a soothing wave.

The first paragraph does two important things.  One, it introduces the novel's magic system.  Two, it identifies the initial conflict.  That's what it should do, so good job.

Paragraph two serves as a flesh-granter to the plot, setting, and character pool.  It could have a few words rent, but other than that it does nicely.

The final paragraph gives away just enough to keep you interested.  This is a common trait in blurbs so far as I have found, a trait I fully respect.  The use of "together" in that way, coupled with "and Myra's former lover" from the previous paragraph, have me thinking "romantic sub-plot?".

Overall, this is a very nice blurb.  I shall try to read this novel as soon as I can.

Monday, February 17, 2014

(Release) Weaver by JA Ellis



Imagine Don LaFontaine's voice pouring out, "In a world where...

"As a Weaver, Myra Castor has always depended on her ability to read the lines of the universe, and create new possibilities in the fabric of reality to keep her footing in a world that most people have no control over. But when she hears that her mentor, Susan, has died of a heart attack, Myra's world begins to fall apart.

Before Myra can process the news, Jack, another of Susan's students - and Myra's former lover - appears on her doorstep. He tells her Susan's death wasn't a heart attack, and when he shows Myra an anomaly - a hole in the universe - that leads to a dead world full of ghosts, Myra begins to question her perception of reality. She knows that without intervention, the lines holding the universe together will unbind, and slip away into oblivion, and their world will cease to exist.

Together, Myra and Jack work their way through the anomalies riddling their part of the universe, searching for a portal that will bring them closer to the source of the chaos. But an ambush ending in tragedy sends Myra across the universe in a desperate bid to save her world."

This is the (theoretically dramatically-presented) blurb for Ms. J A Ellis' new release, Weaver.

You can purchase Weaver from any of these places for very reasonable prices:

Smashwords
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/406027
Barnes & Noble

Please also visit Ms. Ellis' blog and check out her Twitter account (@JAEllis6).

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Beneath Her Favorite Tree

     Moonlight shone through the bare patches of Lydia’s favorite tree.  She smiled, despite the increased noise behind her.  The beast is less than a kilometer away, she estimated.
     Lydia thrust her spade into the loamy earth yet again.  “Not quite big enough,” she mumbled, wiping her brow.
     A distinctive howl tore through the crisp night air.  Three hundred meters.
     “Finished,” said Lydia.  She turned to face her pursuer.
     “Decided to dig your own grave, Empress?” The werewolf chuckled.  “How nice of you.”
     Lydia grinned.  “Not my grave, Duke Noran.”  She pulled a rapier from the sheath at her side.  “Yours.”

Friday, February 14, 2014

St. Valentine's Day "Linkback"

In celebration of St. Valentine's Day, I'm doing a "linkback" to one of my favorite flash fics that I've written in the past year, a (squeaky clean) YA romance titled "The Note."

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Is Your Writing Stained Glass or Translucent?

Today I'm going cheap and linking back to one of my first writing posts.  I didn't have many followers back then, and I think it was a really nice post, especially from June of 2012 me.  Here it is.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Revelations

This is another story that shares a title with something I wrote in the past.  My story was the first piece in my Fifteen serial.  This is a stand-alone short story of about 2,200 words.  It may be offensive to some Christians for it's fictional version of Jesus Christ.  I personally don't mind because it was clearly meant as speculative fiction, but others may not feel it right, which I can understand.  Anyway, it's a very good story, I think.

There are several POV characters in this story.  It's a little disorienting and uncommon in this regard, having more than two POVs in such a small word count.  I think enough was done to separate the characters, make them realistic, relatable to some, and interesting.

The setting is speculative, as I mentioned.  It's sort of an alternate history future, if that makes sense.  Let's say that some past event is changed that makes a big impact on an even in the near future.  Yes, it has to do with Jesus Christ.  I can't relate to the story quite as much because it's set in the South and I live in the Mid-Atlantic.  It's a small matter, in any case.

Plotwise, this story excelled.  A little bit could have been cut, I suppose, but overall the plot is really cool.  The excellent wording made everything progress smoothly.

This story has an original(ish) feeling and structure to it.  In all respects of style it's like a mash-up of the story types from Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine.  I thought that was really cool.  It has a sort of literary to mainstream-bent without interfering with all the great attributes of speculative fiction.  Nice job (writer) Brenda Kezar!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Her Eyes

"Her Eyes," one of my best flash fics, in my opinion, was published by MicroHorror.com (non-paying) on the 6th of December 2013.  It was entered in the 2013 Halloween Contest.  Since then, the site has ceased working, so I shall be posting it below.  (I have all rights to the story.)


            Her crystal blue eyes were unmistakable, even from outside my bedroom window at two in the morning.  Lena Cummings looked down at me through the glass.  I opened the window a crack.  “Go around to the French doors in back.”
            A moonbeam illuminated Lena’s honey-blond hair.  I took a deep breath and let it out slow.  The doorknob wouldn’t turn at first.  I realized with a shake of my head that it needed to be unlocked first.
            “John,” said Lena.  She pulled me into a tight embrace.
            I shivered.  The lilac perfume I watched her use on the bus the day before smelled fresh in spite of the hour.  “What are you doing here?” I asked, stammering.
            “I wanted to see you.”  Her tone was so matter-of-fact it made my face go hot.
            “In the middle of the night?”  I laughed, stroking the back of her velvet coat.
            Lena put a hand to my cheek, caressed it.  Her skin felt soft as silk.  She lowered the hand to my shoulder, replacing it with her lips.  They kissed me once, twice, moved to my mouth and kissed me again.  I kissed her back.
            Wind shook the trees in my backyard.  I opened my eyes to see the bare branches dance in the gale at the corner of my vision.  I hadn’t noticed my eyes were closed.
            “Do you love me, John?” Lena asked, pulling away just far enough that the ends of her lips brushed mine.
            My heart went to jelly.  “Yes.”
            “Look me in the eyes, John.  Tell me again.  Please.”
            I gazed into her irises.  “Yes,” I said, my voice strong and blissful.
            Her eyes glowed in the darkness.  The pupils could have been ethereal pinpricks, islands in the midst of vibrant yellow oceans.
            I screamed as she placed her teeth on my neck and bit deep into the flesh.  A thick pulse of blood streamed from my jugular.  I went limp as she threw me to the ground in her flight, giggling in Lena’s angelic tone.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Magic: An Analysis of My Favorite Novel Quotes (Part 5)

Since my last post in this series (each part of which you can find under my "quotes" label), I added an eighth quote to "My Favorite Novel Quotes."  Nonetheless, I shall mine for the magic in the fourth quote on my wall (literally, they're written on lined, yellow sticky notes beside my desk).

"Ignoring the tray, he rose and made his way down the hall to Moraine's room.  She answered his rap on the door with, 'Come in, Perrin.'

"For an instant all the old stories of Aes Sedai stirred again..." - The Dragon Reborn

This quote belongs to the third book in the now-complete The Wheel of Time series.  If you aren't familiar with the series, you should be.  (Start with the first book, The Eye of the World.)  I reviewed this book a while back.  It's really solid overall, in part due to passages such as this.  As an epic fantasy tome, it is littered with magic both in the traditional sense and in the sense I'm trying to convey through this series of posts.

We start our journey with the first three words of this quote.  It's a small matter, but one that displays skill.  "Ignoring the tray..."  In three words, Robert Jordan managed to give his readers a peek into Perrin's head.  He's so anxious that he ignores a tray full of food before him.  The following "he rose and made his way down the hall to Moraine's room" points out that while Perrin is somewhat anxious mentally, he's rather calm physically, or at least that's what he's telling himself (as he is the 3rd-limited narrator).

Despite Perrin's visual calm, Moraine knew that he was the one who was at her door.  Some clue must have surfaced earlier in the day that would cause Moraine to suspect that Perrin would come to see her.  I don't remember the context perfectly, but to the best of my memory there wasn't any apparent reason for her to do so.

The fact that Moraine was aware of the identity of the person behind her door must have startled Perrin quite a bit.  He notes, "For an instant all the old stories of Aes Sedai stirred again."  This gives flavor to both Perrin's character and the setting.  Aes Sedai are so scary and mysterious to the sheltered farmers in the Two Rivers (Perrin's homeland) that Perrin let himself be spooked by one, even though she is one of his most powerful allies.  Perrin typically comes off as brave through the first three books, but he isn't a solid stone by any means.

The subtlety behind the character and setting development in this quote are reminiscent of pure magic.  Here, traditional and nontraditional magic thrive in harmony.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

IWSG---My Blog Is Losing Traction


This is my (lucky) seventh post for Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group.  From Mr. Cavanaugh's blog: "Purpose: To share and encourage.  Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak.  Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance.  It's a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!"

As the title suggests, I can't help but feel that my blog is losing traction.  Sure, I'm getting more comments than I was early on, but the trickle of new followers has almost ceased.  I've been stuck at 58 for over a month now, possibly a good deal longer.

Part of it is avoiding most blog hops and rarely visiting new blogs, but it still feels like progress is moving sluggishly.  I don't want to get to the point where the only time I get new followers is during April (yes, I am doing the A-to-Z Challenge again this year).

I had my second link posted on inkPageant today, but so far it hasn't helped.  According to Google Analytics, nobody has followed the link.

I'm strongly considering starting a Google+ account.  (Does it help increase readership?)

I won't let this blog fail, in any case, but a new face every once in a while would be very nice to see.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

1984 (Part 1 Analysis)

1984, by George Orwell, was published in 1949.  It certainly shows.  I wouldn't venture to say that it's a bad novel, because it isn't, but it definitely isn't top-notch by today's standards.  At the time, I suspect it was quite good.

The protagonist in 1984 is much like the protagonists of other top-rated 1940s novels: flatter than we're used to.  Winston isn't a particularly bad character, but he could be far better.  The nature of the novel causes distance between the story and the reader, which can be respected, although it really puts a damper on the characterization.  By the same rule, the supporting cast is quite basic.

I think the setting of 1984 would be much improved with a slight change in date.  Hindsight clouds all judgement thereof, of course.  In any case, 1989 or 1994 would have felt more genuine.  If this novel had fewer info-dumps and less overdescription the milieu may have went over very well with me.

So far there hasn't been much plot to speak of.  Things are building, although I would like the tension to build more.  The whole distancing vibes sour the conflict quite a bit.  Hopefully things will improve in the latter two parts.

I shall be back soon to report on Part 2 and Part 3.  The potential is there, it seems, yet so far the story has been sub-par compared to other novels I've read.  I can't jump to too many conclusions, as a lot of speculative fiction starts slow and blasts off toward the midpoint.

(Since this book is by a Brit and I've always wanted to type it...) Cheers!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Definitely Not a Protein Shake

You can find my story "Definitely Not a Protein Shake" on MicroHorror.com.  It was published there on October 2, 2013.