pameladlloyd: Green Woman West - Self Awareness by  Johanna Uribes, c. 2009-2011 (greenwoman)
According to an article on Co.EXIST, Can Science Fiction Writers Inspire The World To Save Itself? there is a new collaboration between science fiction author Neal Stephenson and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination. Project Hieroglyph, Co.EXIST reports, suggests that science fiction writers should stop writing stories about dystopian futures and instead focus on visions of a rosy future. Their hope is that this will result in a resurgence of the optimism that has marked more prosperous eras and, thus, to create a contemporary culture that encourages the creation of a more desirable prospect.

But, is the idea that science fiction writers can directly influence the future a realistic one, or is it little more than an application of sympathetic magic to the complex problems of the day? And, is it even necessary, or can the very literature to be eschewed, of dystopian, apocalyptic, and post-apocalyptic futures, a part of the solution that can help to bring about the same push to create a better future?

Neal Stephenson writes about his perspective on the need for a more positive approach to the future in his article, Innovation Starvation, and I get the impression from his article and from the Project Hieroglyph site that their actual vision is far more interesting and complex than simply asking writers to stop writing about what's wrong with the world, and start focusing on what we want to see, but I feel the need to address the underlying assumptions of the article, written by Co.EXIST Senior Editor Ariel Schwartz, which first brought this to my attention.

There are no simple answers. It's unrealistic to expect that if only writers would just stop being so negative and start being more positive it would make the world a better place. Literature is a part of an intricate conversation that exists within society between those who comment on the world around them and those who act to change it, with there being very little distinction between the two groups. We are all observers, all commenters, all participants, all actors, in the dance of social change. Writers respond to the world around them, as well as act in ways that will change the world. We see the world and identify possibilities, some attainable, others more fantastic (psychological and mythopoeic), and in response we imagine a world in which we attempt to follow those trends to their logical, or illogical, conclusions.

It’s a well-known phenomenon that published fiction tends to follow societal trends: when times are tough, when people as a general rule are discouraged, our fiction will reflect this mood; when things are better, economically, socially, environmentally, and so on, our fiction will reflect this only. And this is nothing to be ashamed of!

Writers as a whole (or, better yet, a herd of cats) cannot sound only a single note, for that is little more than putting our fingers in our collective ears and singing “la, la, la,” but must instead create a symphony of notes, sometimes aiming for the sublime and at others for a clashing discordance that reflects the cacophony of dissolution. It will take all of these myriad visions and creations to effect change, and the societal changes that result will rarely be something we could have predicted or planned for, but we must move forward with the confidence that our contributions are a valid part of the overall conversation. To write only of sweetness and light is as likely to create a world of complacency in the face of horrors as to create a world of eager engineers, striving for the betterment of man. To write only of darkness and terror may leave our readers frightened and discouraged, or may inspire them to forge ahead with endeavors that will solve the world’s problems.

Writers, let us continue to write in response to the world around us. Let us write stories of idyllic and horrific possibilities. Let us rewrite the past and pre-write the future. Let us, above all, create! Above all, let us continue to do so without muzzling ourselves, for it is when we write from our hearts that our writing is most powerful and most likely to effect the changes we want to see.

ETA: I think part of my reaction to the article, which I left unexpressed earlier, was the mention of several recent dystopian works and the statement: "It almost seems as though science fiction writers--and the general public--have given up on the future as a happy, technologically enhanced place to be." I feel that the article criticizes both writers and audiences for having a "bad attitude," and in so doing dismisses those involved in the specific works mentioned and all science fiction writers as doing a public disservice.

It ruffled my feathers, so I had to squawk.
pameladlloyd: Fairy reading a book, children's book illustration by Christian Martin Weiss (Reading Fairy)
Snaffled from [ profile] eneit, who got it from [ profile] anghara, who got it from this post, by [ profile] fiction_theory.

The exercise, which originated with this book, is as follows: Come up with five opening lines for books you never intend to write. Use different techniques and try out different genres than you usually would. Just make them as interesting and compelling in one line as you can.

To further challenge myself, I've selected genres in which I haven't written and with which I have limited experience. Which means I have done some limited research by reading small bits of works in each of my chosen genres.
  1. Lady Agatha Gordon-Smythe was dying and Cynthia Billingsworth found that she was quite perplexed as to whether she should feel sympathy, or relief, having spent the last five years acting as nurse to her demanding and cranky aunt and sitting by as the old woman married off all her daughers to wealthy young men, and her sons to even wealthier women; while Cynthia cared little for life in the ton, she did not look forward to a life of caring for her various elderly relatives, or, worse, those of others, and so she knew she must find some other means of survival, even if it meant finding a husband. (Regency romance)
  2. Stepping onto the platform at the station in San Buenaventura, Addy was grateful for the sea breeze that gave her her first taste of ash-free air in days; also carried on the breeze was the lyrical sound of Spanish, the predominant tongue in the city, which worried her, for her knowledge of the language was limited to her study of a battered lexicon purchased in Utah and a copy of Don Quixote left behind by another passenger. (Western)
  3. Emily looked up at the clock and decided that 45 minutes of desultory work on the Bramwell campaign was enough to earn her a coffee break, especially since her manager, Laura, was in a meeting and the hot new guy from Marketing was in the break room. (Occupational fiction / Workplace tell-all)
  4. I see ghosts, everywhere. I know they are only fragments of memory, bits of flotsam left behind by those who leave, but as no one ever stays I have only the ghosts. (Existentialist fiction)
  5. Late for the first day of class, Martin ran up the steps of the Cesar E. Chavez Building, glad they were few and his economics class was on the first floor, since Coach had required all the new recruits to run laps for the last half-hour of practice, but no sooner had he slammed through the door into the entranceway than he came to a full stop, stunned by the sight of a pretty blond girl lying in a pool of blood. (Campus murder mystery)
Note: Looking for genres you might want to play with? Wikipedia has an extensive list.

Crossposted from Straw Castles on LiveJournal.
pameladlloyd: Horton the Elephant, from Dr. Suess' book, Horton Hears a Who (A Person's a Person)
Today, I've read three blog posts about prejudice back-to-back. The first is a first-hand narrative of an American woman of Arab and Jewish descent, Shoshana Hebshi, who, along with two Indian men, was detained and held by police yesterday. All three were strangers who happened to be seated next to each other on a flight to Detroit, and someone on the plane reported the three individuals as suspicious. The second describes the difficulties authors Sherwood Smith and Rachel Manija Brown have faced in their attempts to find representation for their collaboration, which has as one of its characters a young man who is gay, and links to yet another case in which author Jessica Verday was told that her story would be published in an anthology only if she changed the sex of one of the characters, so that a relationship involving that character would be between a male and female, instead of between two males.

Ms. Hebshi's post, Some real Shock and Awe: Racially profiled and cuffed in Detroit, on her blog Stories from the Heartland, is quite upsetting. So far as I can tell from her description of the incident, the police and Homeland Security (I HATE the name of that department!) personnel did what they were required to do without excessive force or deliberate prejudice, but it was clearly prejudice that brought their attention to Ms. Hebshi and the two other passengers who were detained. You can contrast Ms. Hebshi's story with articles detailing the incident in which she was involved and a similar incident on another plane at No charges against 3 detained at Detroit airport and Military jets safely escort NYC, Detroit flights.

It makes me sad and angry to know that ten years after the attack on the Twin Towers, many Americans are not only still living in fear, but with such a strong level of prejudice that they feel the need to see suspicious activity where there isn't any. This is such a sad commentary on what has become of our nation in the last decade. We need to fight prejudice, not imaginary enemies.

In Rachel Manija Brown's and Sherwood Smith's account of censorship regarding LGBTQ characters in a YA novel, one statement jumped out at me: "silence, however well-motivated and reasonable […] allows the problem to flourish." One of those authors, Sherwood Smith, has been a LiveJournal friend of mine for some years. Her posts, often about writing, have consistently been thoughtful and thought-provoking.

It seems crazy to me that now, when we've known for decades that homosexuality is genetic and natural—it is also found in many other species from birds to primates, when people are finally beginning (again, the history is really interesting) to have the legal right to marry, when it's been well-publicized that homosexual teens are at high risk for suicide due to their feelings of isolation and rejection, when electronic books and self-publishing are threatening traditional publishing (so, limiting your books to "safe" books means cutting out yet another chunk of the market), that anyone in the publishing industry thinks they need to censor the sexual orientation of teens. People, get a clue! Homosexuality is neither a character flaw, nor a disease. Kids won't change their orientation, just because they read about characters with a different orientation in a book or story. They won't "catch" a different orientation, just because they read about it.

But, reading books with LGBTQ characters can help LGBTQ teens feel less alone. And, reading books with LGBTQ characters can help straight teens recognize that being gay is neither wrong, nor dangerous. Maybe, just maybe, reading books with LGBTQ characters will save someone's life.

Prejudice. We all experience it; that's part of being human. Treating people right? That's also part of being human, or it should be, and I hope that we, all of us, every single one of my cousins on this planet—and that's all of you, can learn to overcome the impulse to prejudice, and replace that with actions that reflect kindness and respect for everyone.
pameladlloyd: Horton the Elephant, from Dr. Suess' book, Horton Hears a Who (A Person's a Person)
I recently started a genealogy blog at Blogger. My new blog is Searching for Roots and Branches, and my most recent post, a poem, is at Where I'm From, an Adaptation.
pameladlloyd: icon from <lj comm=musesrealm> (Not All Who Wander Are Lost)
Ever since my last post, I've been saddled with the nagging feeling that I'd not only made a misspelling in my entry, but that the misspelling was in my title.

This is not exactly a comfortable feeling for someone who tutors writing.

So, I finally looked it up. It turns out that this is a term in transition and I'm in, if not good company, at least, numerous company, as 46% of people will use the spelling I did. Even the folks at Oxford Press now see this as a variant, although the New Oxford American Dictionary flags it as a nonstandard variant. You can read more about this lexicographic issue on the OUPblog.
pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (lady with cup)
As have many of my writer friends, I've examined the pros and cons of self-publishing. The publishing industry is in flux, and this means that there are new challenges and opportunities for writers. I think that many of us struggle with the idea that, if we could just figure it out, we could determine the "best" way to get our work published.

But the reality is that there is no more one best way to publication than there is one best way to write.

All that said, Amanda Hocking, USA Today best-selling author, who has achieved her success through self-publishing, shares her thoughts on the subject in her blog post, "Some Things That Need to Be Said ". It's well worth reading.
pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (Alya)
My most recent contract position ended earlier this week, so I've been getting caught up on sleep after the big push at work to meet the release deadline and working on getting over the flu that's made it's rounds through the house for the last few weeks. I'm also trying to get caught up on chores I put off doing while I was feeling overwhelmed, plus I'm doing a bit of writing (or, well, maybe writing prep is more accurate) for myself. Oh, and one more thing I'm doing is working on getting the word out to the IT world that I'm available.

Wednesday I downloaded the new Scrivener for Windows Beta. I've started two new projects in it. The first is a collaboration with my husband, and the second is a novel I started (mumble) years ago. It'll be interesting to see how this works. By the way, for those of you who are participating in NaNoWriMo (as my eldest son is doing for the second year in a row), Literature and Latte is offering a 50% Discount for All NaNoWriMo 2010 winners, and 20% off for those who try, even if they don't manage 50,000 words.

My husband and I have been listening to some old classic songs, such as My Girl, by the Temptations, and Be My Baby, by the Ronettes:

Karl says listening to these old songs is like eating potato chips. Once you get started, it's hard to stop.

pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (Alya)
Today I came across Why do the National Book Awards bar fairy tales?, by Laura Miller on I wasn't aware of the restriction, but I do have to wonder at it. Sometimes, a retelling is simply that, but sometimes, it's the basis for going beyond the traditional story to find new meaning.
pameladlloyd: Fairy with dice, children's book illustration by Christian Martin Weiss (Gambling Fairy)
My very good friend, [ profile] frankieroberts, has just made her first book sale! To sweeten this, she found out on her birthday! Check out her blog post at TusCon 37 and A Sale! for the details.

Frankie and I used to be in the same writers' group. While I'm no longer part of the group since I just haven't been able to keep to a regular writing schedule, I've had the pleasure hearing Frankie read at our local con, TusCon. I was very disappointed to have missed her reading at the con this year, as illness kept me from attending. I've even had her reading on my Google Calendar for weeks, just to make sure I was there, because she's writing the kind of paranormal romance I enjoy and she's gotten very, very good.

So, drop by her blog for the low-down on the book, and keep your eyes peeled for Veiled Mirror. You won't be sorry.
pameladlloyd: Fairy with dice, children's book illustration by Christian Martin Weiss (Gambling Fairy)
For all my NaNoWriMo friends and family out there:

I am writing a different kind of book (or, rather, two of them), the technical kind. I have been very, very busy. Someday, I hope to return to hanging out with all my LJ friends, at least once in a while, but now is not that time. *sigh*

(Crossposted at
pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (writing)
For all my NaNoWriMo friends and family out there:

I am writing a different kind of book (or, rather, two of them), the technical kind. I have been very, very busy. Someday, I hope to return to hanging out with all my LJ friends, at least once in a while, but now is not that time. *sigh*
pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (Default)
There's an ongoing discussion over on LinkedIn, in the Informed Ideas for Writer's group, titled: "You Know You're a Writer If..." that was posted by Angela Neal. (Note that LinkedIn requires membership, but has a free option and is a great way to stay connected with the professionals with whom you've worked.) Angela is collecting the responses on LinkedIn, for a blog post on Writer's Remorse. So far as I can tell, the comments on LinkedIn are entirely discreet from the post and comments on Writer's Remorse.

Here are the lines I came up with in response to Angela's discussion topic on LinkedIn:

... you analyze every experience, especially physical and emotional pain, so you'll get it right when you write about it.
... you contract typhoid fever and consider it research. (Yes, it really happened. No, I didn't deliberately seek out the condition. Just don't drink the water.)
... you crack a rib and consider it research.
... you hear on NPR that a story about an apocalypse can't be beautiful, and decide to prove the speaker wrong.
... you categorize everything you read into one of two categories: I can do better than that, and I'll never be that good.
... you get so lost in writing a single paragraph that three hours go by unnoticed.
... you spend a year crying over a keyboard without writing a word.
... you become a technical writer, because that way you can write and still make a living.

I have to add one more thing: ... you tell your husband you'll watch a TV show with him, and then spend the next half hour working on your blog post.
pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (library stairs)
This weekend I spent at the Tucson Festival of Books (TFoB), on the University of Arizona Mall. I can't stress enough what a wonderful, well-organized, and amazing celebration of reading and writing this is. Even more amazing is that it is entirely free, yes FREE!, to the public. Check out the list of authors who attended. If you're local, I hope you were there (and if you weren't, why not?); if you're not local, consider visiting Tucson for next year's festival, to be held March 12-13, 2011.

The TFoB is both like and unlike a science fiction convention. There were many, many fans and authors, panels, discussions, and workshops. In that respect, it was very like a con. But, there were no (or I missed them) fans in costumes, although there were a few costumed characters, such as the Easter bunny and Little Critter (whom both I and another writer misidentified as Little Monster), who were willing to pose with kids while their parents took pictures. *sigh* It's just been too many years since I read Mercer Mayer's books with any regularity. There was also spectacle, in the form of a "literary circus." There were multiple activities for kids, musical performances, food booths run by local restaurants, and booths for just about any organization or group with a literary connection that you can imagine, plus several with no obvious literary connection; as I commented to a friend Sunday afternoon, readers and authors all generally live in houses and drive cars.

far too much detail-lol )
pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (reading fairy)
One of the things I sometimes discuss with the students I tutor is the fact that reading and writing are fairly new for humans. We didn't evolve (in the prehistorical sense) to do these things, because they weren't part of the environment we evolved to survive—but they are very much part of the environment we live in today, very much a survival requirement. [ profile] mount_oregano touches on this briefly, when she notes, "Speaking is instinctive, but writing is a technology: a code," in the opening line of her informative and enjoyable post about the ways in which writing has developed to support the ways in which people read.


Feb. 21st, 2010 11:03 am
pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (colorful cats)
Do you dream in stories?

While some of my dreams are clearly linked to my everyday life, I am also sometimes blessed with dreams that feel like stories. These dreams are peopled by characters I've never met and are set in in places I've never been. I may be present only as a watcher, or I may enter the dream through a viewpoint character, but I am rarely present in such dreams as myself.

Sometimes, when I'm lucky, my dreams can serve as the kernel for a written story, although often the things which made so much sense in the dream would be difficult to incorporate into something written for others to read. Still, I usually enjoy such dreams immensely.
pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (library stairs)
I've been reading The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers, recently. While I've read portions of several of Joseph Campbell's works, it was generally in the context of research I was doing while I was a student. My eldest son has the DVD set of Bill Moyer's interviews with Campbell, which I've been thinking of watching, and I decided that I would get the most out of them by reading the book beforehand.

I'm struck by how often something Campbell says has me wanting to jump up and find someone to share the passage with. I also find myself deeply appreciative of Campbell's statements about myth as metaphor, which help me to contextualize religion in a way that works for me.

The passage I wanted to share with you tonight is on page 71, in the chapter titled, "The Journey Inward." The point of discussion in which this takes place has wandered from a discussion of myth and religion to the relationship between myth and folktales.

Anyone writing a creative work knows that you open, you yield yourself, and the book talks to you and builds itself. To a certain extent, you become the carrier of something that is given to you from what have been called the Muses&emdash;or, in biblical language, "God." This is no fancy, it is a fact. Since the inspiration comes from the unconscious, and since the unconscious minds of the people of any single small society have much in common, what the shaman or seer brings forth is something that is waiting to be brought forth in everyone. So when one hears the seer's story, one responds, "Aha! This is my story. This is something that I had always wanted to say but wasn't able to say." There has to be a dialogue, and interaction between the seer and the community. The seer who sees things that people in the community don't want to hear is just ineffective. Sometimes they will wipe him out.

In addition to his opening statement about the place from which creativity springs in any writer (and I think it's fair to think this would apply to any artist), Campbell seems to be suggesting that there is very close connection between the writer/artist and the mystic.

When I think about my own writing process—which is a fitful one, full of days in which no worthwhile writing (or, indeed, any writing, at all) is forthcoming, or days in which every word seems to be dragged painfully from some deep well, yet also sprinkled here and there with times and days when the words just flow onto the page with very little effort or apparent conscious thinking on my part—I wonder how that fits into Campbell's view of creativity. I don't think of myself as a mystic, and I would have to say that I am probably not particularly attuned to the unconscious minds of the vast majority of the people in our society (which is, of course, a large, rather than small, one), but perhaps this is why I struggle so hard.

The preceding paragraph is one in which I'm pretty much thinking out loud. If I'd been willing to get out of bed last night, immediately after reading this passage, to share it with you, I probably would have had something very different to say. Certainly, at that moment, I had a complex, excited reaction to what I'd read. Part of this was the immediate question as I read the first sentence about whether the creative process really is that similar for all writers and artists, or whether some (possibly those who prefer detailed outlines?) would reject this notion.

So, I turn this over to you, my friends.

Do you experience the writing process as something you must open yourself to, as something to which you must yield? (As I wrote that, I realized that there is a part of me that hates yielding to that impulse, even as I long to; I want to strike this confession from any public setting, but I am going to resist doing so, because I think it may be a key component of the struggle I have as a writer and I'm sure I'm not unique.)

Do you feel that, as a writer or artist of any kind, you resemble a mystic or seer? Or, do you reject that comparison?
pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (gingerbread house love)
Via Laura Anne Gilman on Twitter: Never Write During the Holidays by [ profile] antonstrout.
pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (Alya)
Manually echoed from

Via Laura Anne Gilman on Twitter: Never Write During the Holidays by [profile] antonstrout.
pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (reading fairy)
I wasn't planning to post again today, but I've been thinking about the old adage, "Show, don't tell." I suspect that just about all writers, at some point early in their careers, hears those words, or sees them scrawled next to a paragraph in their just-critiqued manuscript.

So, here's some linkage to a few blog posts I found interesting:

A guest post by Juliette Wade on The Sharp Angle about Connecting "Point of View" and "Show, Don't Tell" on The Sharp Angle. (I also really enjoyed The Sharp Angle's most recent post, Conversation Between Married Writers.) Which led to two posts on Juliette Wade's blog: "Show, Don't Tell" - Exposed! and Point of View: Reading Beyond the I's on The Internet Review of Science Fiction. I love this line from that last article: "As readers of speculative fiction we have a special talent: the ability to come into a story prepared for the strange and unexpected, ready to look for clues to when, where, and with whom the story takes place." Wow! Because we are science fiction and fantasy readers (which I suspect we all were, long before we became writers of the same), we have a special talent. Coolness. ;-D I also found "Point of View: Reading Beyond the I's" to be a fascinating look at aspects of language that are so familiar they are almost invisible to me; so much of writing happens at a level of understanding so deep it may feel almost instinctual, which makes it very hard to explain, but Wade, with her background in linguistics, has found a way to express it in easy to understand terms.

At Writer Unboxed, I read "The Intersection of Truth and Fiction," which didn't have anything to do with "Show, don't tell," but is still one of those topics that endlessly fascinate authors. How much of your fiction is true?

Also on Writer Unboxed, Juliet Marillier wrote about getting out of a writing rut in Branching Out.

On edittorrent, we get Top Ten Reasons the editor doesn't love what your critique group loves (by Alicia, I think). I'll make a comment about point 7, which is that the members of your critique group may (in general) have standards just as high as the editor's, but may be reluctant to apply them, since they (usually) want to be your friend at least as much, and maybe more, as they want to help you improve your writing. But, if you do happen to be in a critique group that doesn't seem able to help you learn and grow, maybe it's time to spread your wings. In One Funny Paragraph, Theresa looks closely at one paragraph in Iain Pears book, Stone’s Fall.

Frankie Robertson posts Religion in fiction, about how she sees religion as a crucial aspect of world-building.

Oh, and I'd like to point you to [ profile] janni's post, The stories not written, simply because she addresses a writerly issue with great poignancy.

While I'm here, I think I'll also mention a few odds and ends I've run across recently.

Samhain Publishing, "a royalty paying ebook company," has refined their submissions criteria and are now looking for "all genres of romance and erotica, as well as fantasy, urban fantasy and science fiction with strong romantic elements." They are also looking for submissions to a Red Hot Fairy Tales Anthology, currently scheduled for summer 2010, and a Steampunk Romance Anthology, scheduled for release fall 2010.

A couple of days ago, over on Whatever, Jon Scalzi posted about Patrick Rothfuss' efforts to help Heifer International do some real life worldbuilding. (I posted an extremely concise review of Patrick Rothfuss' first novel, The Name of the Wind, back in July; this may be the best book I've read all year.)
pameladlloyd: Fairy with dice, children's book illustration by Christian Martin Weiss (Gambling Fairy)
Echoed manually, and on time, for once, from

It seems like I've been running into discussions about self-publishing wherever I turn these days.

Over on the Writer Beware Blogs!, Victoria Strauss discusses the blurry distinctions between paid publishing options.

NYT Best-selling author Mike Stackpole (one of the Arizona authors and a recent guest at TusCon 36) is front and center in the i09 article, The Best Way To Break Into Science Fiction Writing Is Online Publishing. An outspoken advocate of self-publishing, Mike often discusses it on his blog at; his two most recent posts about the topic (in order of posting) are: Self-publishing isn't quite it... and Re-Christening Self-Publishing, in the latter of which he suggests the term, Vipub, short for Vertically Integrated Publishing, as a way to avoid the stigma associated with the term self-publishing.

At the moment, I'm merely a bystander. The most I could self-publish would be some short stories, which I could easily post on my website, but they'd act only as a form of advertising. I'm not set up to generate income from them and I'm not sure I'd want to try. I also suspect that if/when I do complete a novel, I'll try the more traditional (for values of traditional that reflect the last 50-150 years) route. Or, not. But, until I've got a book in hand, its all pretty much a spectator sport for me.


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