Zette Appreciation Day

Wednesday, June 6th, 2007

I missed the fact that yesterday was Zette Appreciation Day, but I’ll try and make up for it now.

In late 2003 I was convinced that writing a novel was much to hard a thing to try. I had it listed in my goals for something to work on by 2008. But then I saw Zette’s announcement at Forward Motion that she would be teaching an online class during which participants would write a novel over a period of two years. I signed up, not sure what to expect. Well it worked. I wrote a novel. It wasn’t polished and ready for submission by the end of the class due to some poor decisions on my part, but I had a completed first draft and some solid ideas for how to proceed. I also wasn’t afraid of writing novels anymore, which is a big one.

When I did start serious revisions I realized that I’d lost the detailed critique Zeete had sent me (which is what comes of replying to auto-generated forum emails without changing the subject). I emailed her in a panic explaining what had happened and what I believed the subject of the email to be and she went through the effort of digging it up and sending it again. It had probably been about a year since she first sent it, and it was a big help.

Zette always seems to want to help. I seem to remember her taking some flak on the NaNoWriMo boards for trying to offer good solid advice to folks about what is considered publication and scams to be wary of. You can’t really help people who don’t want to be helped, but it must be disheartening when they attack you for it. A quick check just now shows that she’s still there offering helpful advice to those who will listen.

If you’re willing, she’ll probably help you someday

To learn more about Zette:
Forward Motion — http://www.fmwriters.com
Vision — http://www.lazette.net/Vision/
Zette’s website — http://www.lazette.net

You write fantasy? Isn’t that a lot of work?

Thursday, October 5th, 2006

Holly Lisle posted the the introduction to Holly Lisle’s Create A Culture Clinic, the next volume in her Worldbuilding Course. Reading it really drove some things home for me. My wife often asks why I choose to write stories set in a fantasy world that I have to create, giving myself that much extra work to do (other people ask too, but she asks most often). There are two problems with that. Firstly, it’s not so much a choice so much as when I sit down to write, I write fantasy stories. I didn’t make a conscious decision to write fantasy stories. Secondly, I don’t think it is more work.

No one seems to believe me on either of those, but the second one seems to dwarf the first in peoples minds. How can I possibly believe such a thing? Because it’s true.

If I want to have a race of purple headed bird people in my world I have some work to do. How to they interact with other races? How are their lives different than humans? What’s their history? Do they speak their own language? Do they eat worms? That’s just the start, and perhaps these violet faced flying folk will only play a passing role in my story.

What’s that? I’m failing to prove my point? Be patient.

If I want to set a story in modern day Saginaw, Michigan, where I’ve never been, I still have quite a bit of work to do. What are the people like? What’s the economic and social structure? What local slang is in use, and by what age groups? What clothing lines are popular with high schoolers? What’s the ethnic makeup of the city? What color are the police cars? How many schools do they have? That too is just the start.

See, in the fantasy world, I make my own answers. Sure I have to make them work in a believable context, and I might make some stupid choices I have to later deal with in some way, but I can’t really be wrong. After all, I’m the world authority on those purple headed bird people. You might think people will be forgiving in the second scenario. It’s only fiction after all, right? Not that I’ve seen. Authors who take liberties with the world we live in get ripped apart. Maybe not all the time, but I’ve seen it happen about really stupid stuff.

So why not write about my hometown, or somewhere I know more about firsthand? I’ve always felt I had a lot of good reasons why I chose not to do that. But Holly’s introduction gave me another one by pointing out a big danger in writing about the world you live in. If you fail to capture the culture in the story, once the culture changes you’re story will no longer work. Yikes! It’s not that it can’t be done, and maybe I could do it, but it sounds like a lot of extra work.

Congratulations Dave Sim

Monday, May 1st, 2006

Dave Sim was inducted into The Joe Shuster Canadian Comic Book Creator Hall of Fame on Saturday. After his acceptance speech he sung an a capella version of all three verses of “My Way”.


brief clip courtesy The Beat.

His introduction was given by J. Michael Straczynski, who in a recent interview had the following to say about Dave:

When he first started out, the idea of telling one story of that magnitude and that duration, over a period of over 20 years, without a publisher behind you, is insane. But he believed he could do it. Even though reason said you can’t do it, his faith said ‘I can’. And, by gosh, he did.

The funny thing is, that’s how society changes. There’s those of us that just want to get along in the world and we try to blend in with and fit into the world around us. And there’re those who either believe in themselves a great deal or are insane who say ‘No, no, I will change the world to match me’. And those are the one’s who do change the world.

Dave Sim changed the world of comics because of what he did with Cerebus.

What Dave did with Cerebus has always been an inspiration to me. Because of him, and others like him, I always took it as a given that self published comics were a viable choice. Even today when the market is flooded with titles I think it can still be done, at least if it’s approached in an intelligent manner. Sure the facts seem to say otherwise. Independent books have quite a struggle today. There was a brief boom in the mid to late eighties, but that’s long past now.

But part of me still believes that there is still a market out there for well told stories. I’ve dipped in and out of comics for the past few years, and the market seems to be flooded with garbage. I don’t think this is just grumpy-old-man-syndrome on my part, because the stuff I see today is the stuff I hated in the early 90s. While the market may never turn around, at some point i think it will become viable again for new independent works.

Without Dave Sim, I would believe none of this. When all the other books I followed disappeared from the shelves Cerebus continued to show up, mostly on time, for it’s entire 300 issue run. That’s pretty damn impressive, and it shows what can be done by two guys (Gerhard really deserves some more public recognition, which should be obvious because I only mentioned him once) who commit to something.