Musings

[Blog] Research

In college, I was terrible at doing proper research. I mean truly awful, though I usually still managed to write decent papers. Probably in part because I really just wanted to do the writing, and not the researching. Or, since these are essays we’re talking about and not fiction, it’s possible I just wanted to get to the end and have done with it.

Fortunately, a fantastic teacher my senior year managed to explain what research actually is and how to do it in a way that clicked with me, and though I only had about a half a semester in which to actually make proper use of it, I now get it. Or I do enough to keep an interest in it, at least!

For me, it’s tied into the idea of writing what you know. I’m going to have a much better chance of writing an epic and believable sword fight if I know the first thing about how sword fights usually go. And not just what it looks like in various blockbuster movies, no matter how much fun they are to watch. If I know what it’s supposed to look like, then I know what I can tweak for the sake of the “cool” factor without running the risk of accidentally taking out something structural.

It’s also a great way to immerse myself in the world I’m trying to create. Instead of feeling like research is something I have to get out of the world before I can get to the actual fun stuff, it’s a way for me to get into the same world I’m planning to write about at a deeper level that will make it easier to write once I actually get down to it. I may not be a skilled sword-fighter myself, but if I know how long it takes someone to become a master in our world, and what weaknesses they might have, and what the strengths of their particular style are, I’ll be able to add those details in (or at least make sure that I don’t accidentally contradict them), and that’s only going to add to my writing.

With an essay or a research paper, the trick was to make sure I worked on a paper I was interested in. Which sadly, for research papers, was sometimes a lot easier said than done, or else the topic was specific enough that it was tailored to what we’d already read in class. But the paper that helped me figure out how to research was one that I was curious about but didn’t feel like I already knew the answer to, and that motivated me to go looking for them.

Or in other words, to do research.

Kind of on a side note, but that’s also what got me to start reading non-fiction for fun as well. If a writer is writing truth about the world, about people, about reality, then the more we learn about that same world, about psychology, history, life, death– everything– the better we will be at writing. And that takes a certain humility. It’s hard to look for answers if you already think you have them all. But if you know there’s everything you don’t know, there’s nothing at all to stop you from looking and learning.

Musings

[Blog] Fluff Reads

A couple weeks back, I was bemoaning the fact that I hadn’t managed to do as much reading this year as I’d liked. That is still technically the case, but it’s certainly gotten better– enough that I at least don’t feel guilty when I tell people I’m an avid reader.

For the most part, that’s meant that I’m reading through the last five books of David Weber’s Honor Harrington series. They’re fun. Horatio Hornblower in space, basically. The space battles are incredibly detailed, and the characters are fun. And it’s undeniably light reading, for the most part. As much as I enjoy them, I can’t argue that they’re high literature in any way.

And that’s just fine.

It can be easy to fall into this idea that there’s less value in “lower” stories. Most people don’t go so far as to say that you shouldn’t ready anything but the best stories, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a general belief that it’s more valuable to spend your time reading them than the alternative. If there’s no way you can read everything worth reading over the span of your life, why waste time on anything but the best?

To some extent, that’s a reasonable point of view. There are so many fantastic and truly well crafted stories out there, and it would be a loss to not read and enjoy them. But at the same time, sometimes you don’t have the focus to appreciate or even follow the complexities you find in those sorts of stories. Or sometimes you just want to read something fun and easy– just like you sometimes just want to eat some popcorn instead of a real meal. And that’s why it’s so nice to have easier reads. Like the Honor Harrington series.

Yet just because a particular story can accurately be described as a fluff read doesn’t mean that it loses all capacity to touch the reader. Sometimes reading something light and easy what it takes for us as readers to let down our guard more than we would with something else. There’s a point of diminished returns, of course. If something is too poorly written it will distract from any good points it might actually have. But outside of that, if a story touches you, it touches you. And sometimes a fluff read can touch you just as much as anything else. Or if not, then it can entertain you and prove enjoyable for a while, and that is valuable too.

Fiction

Emergency Medical Werewolves

Hey guys! So, my schedule at work has me working 24 hour shifts on the ambulance. It’s “just” interfacility transports, but I still find it pretty awesome. That being said, the hours do get funky. So maybe we can blame the following on a late night, sleep deprived brainstorm. Because I think that’s actually pretty accurate. I hope you find it as amusing as I do!

Look. Just hear me out. Because if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Werewolves would make fantastic EMTs.

Wait! Stop! Quit backing away slowly and just listen! Ah, shoot– and put down that little silver figurine you keep on your desk! You don’t need it! What are you…? Yip! Quit throwing things! That’s completely uncalled for.

Alright, look. I’ll stay here on this side of the room, you stay there on that side of the room, and we can talk about this like civilized people. At least one of us is? Now that’s just mean. You’ll give me two minutes? Great! That’s all I need.

So! Werewolves as EMTs. First, the obvious. Ambulances run all night long. Werewolves are great at night! We– ah– they do their best work when the moon is up and the sun is not, so no need to worry about them not being awake.

Second, werewolves are strong. Great for lifting gurneys and moving patients. Also great for general emergency situations. Need something moved out of the way so you can get to someone who might be injured? They got you! Can’t find a jack to help change that flat tire? Just have your friendly neighborhood werewolf lift the car for you! Need an imposing presence so that no one gets in your way while you’re patching someone together long enough to get them to the hospital? No one wants to fight a werewolf.

Okay, so that last one may have more to do with teeth and claws than strength, but the point stands.

Third, rumor has it that the weirdest stuff happens when the full moon is out. So why not harness the weirdness (look, even I’ll admit werewolves are a little weird) and have it work in your favor? If your partner’s a werewolf, you’ll get that fuzzy advantage any night, but especially when the moon is full– when you just might happen to need it the most.

Fourth, ‘wolves are naturally familiar with using something like a siren to communicate with their surroundings. Because basically, a siren is just a howl that tells everyone where you are and to get out of the way.

Fifth, werewolves are great team players. Comes with being the sort of creature that thrives in a pack. Plus, all those scary stories you hear about werewolves being “bloodthirsty monsters” are from the ones that aren’t socialized and don’t have a pack. I can already guarantee that any ‘wolf that wants to be an EMT is going to be the type that is well socialized, and they’ll form a pack with their partner anyway. Problem solved!

And– what’s that? My two minutes are up? Okay, cool. That’s all I needed to say. Will you at least think about it? Great!

Wait, who are you calling? The local paranormal detectives? Ah, heck, those guys are mean. Fine! I’m leaving! I’m going! Just think about it?

Yip!

Musings

[Blog] Success!

HaHA! I did it! Fifty thousand words in July! And now I’ve got sixteen stories in various stages of presentability, and I’ve already started working on the edits for the first one. Actually, technically, I’ve just got fifteen to edit, since I had one of them pull double duty and act as my entry for the recent contest over at The Write Practice, so it’s actually in good shape and I’ll share it with you all here in about ninety days, once the rights revert back to me. In the meantime, you can go check it out here!

Other than that, since I don’t have much else to share, I can share the list of current titles for the various stories I was working on last month:

The Shadowed
The Day We Lost
The Hartwood Faeries
Wolf Road
Candle in the Window*
Caer Modnaan
The Secret Wood**
Aeternatus
Runner
To the Horizon***
We Went Home
A Page Worse Than Death
The Windbringer
The Lost Ones
The Willow Book
The Smallest Messenger

Most of these are (surprise, surprise) science fiction and fantasy. Which ones sound the most exciting to you? (Or in other words, which ones do you want to see me finish first?) And feel free to ask questions in the comments below!

* This is the one that’s already finished!

** I’m almost certainly going to change the title on this one. The story sorta got away from me…

*** This one… I never really figured out where this was going. But I like the title. We’ll see what happens!