Gee-whiz ideas & mystery novel reviews

Last week Mary Robinette Kowal asked for volunteers to beta a portion of her short story idea generation workshop. After the great experience I had in the Narrative and Diversity workshop with Mary and K. Tempest Bradford, obviously I cleared my calendar and grabbed a spot before the class filled up. (I highly recommend any version of that narrative class if it fits your schedule/budget btw.)

wholeThe short version: you start with a gee-whiz idea (the Big Bad Wolf wants out of his job, say), then using a series of questions (where, who, what do they want, what do they stand to lose, what stands in their way, &c.) flesh out the characters, settings, motivations, and complications. Our first session ran over, and I wasn’t able to attend the followup the next day, but we covered the basics — including a revisit of the MICE (milieu, idea, character, event) quotient for structuring narrative threads. It was so helpful to get a new view of planning out a short story. I get a lot of those gee-whiz ideas that fizzle into nothing because my plotting is weak and I don’t follow Ron Swanson’s advice over there.

This explanation of the class is probably as clear as mud! Lesley Smith has a much more comprehensive review over here. If you have a chance to do any of Mary’s other classes, go for it! You can also check out the Writing Excuses podcast, which is full of great advice and exercises.

In media consumption news, Law & Order still has me deep in its sensationalist claws. I’ve managed to read quite a bit around it, but, no, I won’t be reviewing the absolute mountain of Star Wars pro- and fanfic that litters the last week or so of my internet history. (Except to tell you to read Before the Awakening because it has lovely little backstory encapsulations for the new trio.)

THE STRANGE CRIMES OF LITTLE AFRICA (2015, book, Chesya Burke)
Murder mystery set in Harlem in the 1920s. Though some minor layout issues and spelling errors kept knocking me out of the story, it was a real treat to step into Harlem of the 1920s and follow Ida as she investigates a thorny — and personal — mystery. Lots of familiar names of the period, enough that I also stopped every few chapters to refresh my memory of some of the historical significance. If this is going to be a series, I’ll definitely read more. ★★★★☆

HALF-RESURRECTION BLUES (2015, book, Daniel José Older)
True urban fantasy, almost unputdownable, first in a series! SO GLAD I WAITED UNTIL THE SECOND BOOK WAS RELEASED TO READ THIS ONE. Great worldbuilding and some of the best dialogue and narrative voice I’ve read in a long time. Older has a killer grasp of the cadence of everyday people speaking to each other and thinking to themselves. (I’d put him in the same category as Stephen King and Tana French when it comes to feeling like their fictional characters could walk right off the page.) The paranormal takes the front seat here but, to be real cheesy about it, without losing its heart. ★★★★★

SILENT IN THE GRAVE (2006, book, Deanna Raybourn)
Historical romance/murder mystery, first in a series! Saw a passing retweet that this book was cheap on Amazon, so I grabbed it on a whim and devoured it in less than 24 hours. Wonderfully vivid characters and a twisty mystery that had me utterly convinced of who did what at least seven different and completely wrong times. ★★★★★

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How to make a summer pun without referencing GREASE

The new fall TV season is bearing down, so it’s well past time to get caught up on all the summer things I meant to do.

First, I’ll be traveling to San Francisco the week of 9/13, and am lucky enough to have some free time to do research for a few in-progress writing projects. If you or anyone you know meets any of the following and would be open to a conversation by phone, email, or in person, please let me know! Comment below or you can leave a message on the contact form here.

  • working on/studying seawall repair
  • familiar with/studying indigenous Pacific cultures’ textiles
  • a clerk, manager, or driver for an MMJ dispensary or delivery service
  • an MMJ patient prior to 2003 OR someone who used cannabis therapeutically before SB 420 in 1996

The Apex Magazine Podcast is now on Patreon! Chuck a buck or two their way and keep these awesome stories coming to you every month.

Fear the Walking Dead getting underway and I’m recapping the collapse (literal and figurative?) over at The Televixen! The first and second episodes are up now, and the show returns to AMC on the 13th. Will it realize its true potential as a vehicle for the kid who plays Tobias, the best character in the whole thing? I’m guessing not, but we’ll see.

After a brief summer hiatus, my speculative fiction short story column, Beyond the Binary System, will be back later this month on Luna Station Quarterly. There was a ton of great new fiction over the summer, and I can’t wait to share some of it with you there.

Thanks to a weird confluence of a summer illness and remembering that Amazon Video is a thing that exists, I fell face-first into a Veronica Mars rewatch, which will be a new semi-regular column eventually. Lots and lots of thoughts about how successful it was as a mystery, as noir, as a high school drama, as an antihero narrative, &c. More to come with that, or possibly just me standing outside Rob Thomas’s office in a downpour with a poster pleading for more VMars novels? Stay tuned!

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Another Day in Seething Bay

Officially opening up a new section on the site today: Games! Games written by me!

Title card for 'Another Day in Seething Bay'First (and only) link over there so far is a short interactive fiction game I wrote earlier this year: Another Day in Seething Bay

You’re an office worker named Adanna, who’s going about a totally normal workday on the moon in which nothing at all catastrophic could possibly happen and whose future is 100% completely rosy. Really, nothing to worry about. All your decisions are the right ones!

Except: nope. There’s only one not-unhappy ending in this story. Can you get the good one? Play now »

Writing and programming the game was a fantastic experience. (Choosing where to set your future lunar colony suburbs, transportation, and “old town” is even better, btw.) If you have any interest in creating your own narrative games, I highly recommend Twine. Coding knowledge isn’t necessary; the framework outputs a complete file for you and the interface is mostly WYSIWYG. But if you know HTML, CSS, and/or Javascript, you can do a lot more.

Special thanks to Trevor Dodge, who let me get my sci-fi nerd on for class, and my beta testers: John Vekar, Matt Maynard, Julie Shininger, Bri, and Jess.

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Going for the Goldblum: Vibes

All right, everybody, time to get out your Jeff Goldblum “From Zero to Hero” Sliding Scale.

Good. Now, cross out whatever you have down for the absolute worst piece of garbage thing you’ve ever seen Jeff Goldblum in, because this week’s movie is our new low!

Read more at Pop Culture Crazy →

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Going for the Goldblum: Transylvania 6-5000

Good news, everybody! Not only is Jeff Goldblum in fine mid-80s fettle in Transylvania 6-5000, the movie is as goofy and fun as it is dumb. (Spoiler: It’s really, really dumb.) After the last few weeks of ponderous, inexplicable, baffling movies, what a treat this is!

Read more at Pop Culture Crazy →

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