The Art of Criticism

After a conversation with another esteemed writer friend, I got to thinking about criticism, and how we as authors should parse it when it’s given. It’s a funny thing, really. Most of us are terrified of it because it can strike so deeply, but it’s absolutely required for us to improve our craft.

The White Saviour Narrative

So you’ve got this native people, okay, and they are “more in tune with nature” and therefore have no indoor toilets or shoes, and they have Issues, man. Issues that are usually insurmountable for them (because they don’t have access to modern plumbing, of course) but less so for the Mighty Whitey who makes first contact with them and brings them the knowledge of pooping indoors and wearing boots.

A Letter to White Authors on the Subject of Racism

There is racism in books. There is a big problem with racism and representation in books, especially books from the traditional publishing houses and – I don’t even fucking know anymore. I’ve seen some stuff on Twitter that’s making me want to SCREAM at other white people. Like, why don’t you get it?! Are you not paying attention? WHY AREN’T YOU PAYING ATTENTION-

But tweets are only 140 characters.

Mr. Darcy’s Proposal

As you may all know, I am somewhat obsessed with Pride and Prejudice. It is my favorite book.

Okay, that’s not really true. It’s more… this is the book by which I measure my own work. It has so much wit, and character! It has nuance and layers, and it’s timelessly fun. So light and easy to read, even two hundred years after it was first written. Jane Austen was one of the greatest novelists to ever contribute to English literature.

Get in Formation

So… okay. Real talk for a moment. You guys ever heard of Beyoncé?

That’s a trick question. I’m pretty sure none of you are living under a rock on Mars.

Way back in the mists of time, around 2010, I was young(er) and foolish, and I wrote a blog post about the idea of Beyoncé’s music having deeper meaning, and whether that meaning was being read into the lyrics by a critic’s over-active imagination as opposed to being put there by the artist. Now I read that post and CRINGE, you guys. I cringe to the deepest part of my soul. I sound so godawfully pretentious.

This far, and no further

This far, and no further

This was originally posted on Facebook, seeing as it’s a personal thing, but I’m going to post it here as well for the sake of completeness.

There is a speech by Picard from Star Trek: First Contact that’s stayed with me ever since I saw the movie, years ago, in the cinema. It goes like this:

“We’ve made too many compromises already; too many retreats. They invade our space and we fall back. They assimilate entire worlds and we fall back. Not again. The line must be drawn HERE! This far, no further!”

dungeons and dragons

Better Writing Through Tabletop RPGs

Everyone asks, how can I become a better writer?

The answers are usually something like: read more books in the genre you’re writing, write as much as you can, get feedback from other writers and readers. Yes, you should do all those things, and they will make you a better writer in general. But something that’s often overlooked (perhaps because it’s incredibly nerdy) is tabletop roleplaying.

RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons are amazing tools for focusing the mind on the process of storytelling. By running and playing in an RPG, you’ll develop skills and habits that will make your writing better – or at least easier!

Irish Marriage Referendum No Poster

The Power of Stories

In Ireland, we have an expression for when we meet someone: “What’s the story?” I’ve always liked this. It’s as if the Irish have always known that what we’re told by other people about their lives is a story, which may or may not match up with reality.

Reality has always been subjective, after all.

Stories have power. Stories have more power when they’re retold over and over. It doesn’t just apply to fiction, however. Stories that are told to convince others of a particular point of view are called propaganda, and propaganda is insidious stuff. Thankfully, the worst of it falls apart under scrutiny. I bring this up now because of the Irish referendum on marriage that’ll be voted for or against on May 22nd.

English Longbow

Strength Versus Dexterity in Roleplaying Games

So, roleplaying games. The typical RPG has statistics for each player character – in the case of D&D, my system of choice, those stats are Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma. Stats are used to determine a base level for a character, and they usually affect various skills and abilities a character acquires over the course of the game, particularly in how that character handles weaponry in the case of fantasy RPGs. One thing that comes up very often, that just happens to be wrong, is in the use of Strength for melee weapons, and Dexterity for ranged weapons.

Think about Lord of the Rings, for example, as being the progenitor of this idea. Aragorn uses strength to wield a longsword, and Legolas (being an elf) is dexterous and uses a bow. In D&D, Strength is not applied to ranged weapons, and Dexterity is not applied to melee weapons. Elves are very good with bows, humans are good with swords, etc. Surprise surprise, this doesn’t really hold true for actual real life.

Being a New Mother

Being a New Mother

Whew.

Well, that was an extended leave of absence. My apologies to all, but I was somewhat preoccupied with being very, very pregnant, and then being quite sick, and then actually having a baby. Blogging on top of that might be asking a bit much. But still! I’m back, more or less, and now I have a newborn daughter to write stories for as well. She’s happy, healthy in spite of various shenanigans involved in birthing her, and the joy of my heart.

Normally I’d stick to blogging about writing, publishing, and various sword-related things, but if you’ll allow me a short interlude into mommy-blogger territory, I’d like to discuss a few things – specifically, over the last nine months I’ve been told all kinds of things about what to expect from motherhood, and somehow the following stuff was completely missed.

mako mori

Write Like a Girl

Everyone’s talking about the Strong Female Character(TM).

The actual pushback isn’t a mystery, you know? Lots of women said the same thing long before it was even A Thing – that maybe, just maybe, the way anyone with a uterus tended to be written as a sex-dispensing object/convenient plot device was problematic. And there were articles a-plenty on How To Write Strong Female Characters who were maybe something more than that.

Now people are wondering if we’ve traded one rotten stereotype for another. In asking for Strong Female Characters, the Powers that Be have decided to be literal about their response, and we’ve been given the equivalent of Bruce Willis, Action Hero with a vagina, boobs, and a sexy body. We have the Strong Female Character(TM) or SFC, who isn’t so much a character as a different type of sex-dispensing object/convenient plot device.

Living in the Past

Some time ago, I decided that I wanted to keep up with the press releases of the various New York publishing houses. Mostly I wanted to know what they thought was important enough to issue press releases about, and I thought it would be enough to simply subscribe to their RSS feeds or something.

Except I can’t. What I found was that most of them don’t have RSS feeds for their press releases. They don’t have a method of subscribing to their press releases for people who may be interested. I mean… good grief. What century are you living in? I only have a WordPress blog and I have two feeds available at least.

Anyway – that’s not really want I wanted to talk about. What I’m really interested in is the way that the big publishing houses seem to be flailing about on the Internet like drunken soccer hooligans when it comes to social media.

fifty-shades-of-grey

It’s Valentine’s Day and I Can’t Even

Yep. I just Can’t Even. Today’s the day that Fifty Shades of Grey is released in the cinema. Predictably enough, it’s set to break every box office record from here to Jupiter.

Perhaps I shouldn’t take it personally, you know? And yet I do, because I’m a writer. Because stories matter, in a way that nothing else does. I have a theory – and admittedly, it’s probably something that someone has come up with before – on storytelling.