Author: Jenn Lyons

Thoughts on Motivation

I thought we might talk a little about motivation. You know that thing that actors are always asking? “What’s my motivation?” That. I was recently watching a movie (it will remain nameless but it rhymes with Gorilla) where the primary motivation for the majority of characters was “what will advance the plot to the next action scene?” The characters had no other plausible motivation. They made decisions that seemed to be based solely on what the director needed, not what was internally consistent for their own histories and personalities. Self-interest wasn’t invited to the party: they performed actions which made zero sense from their own personal narratives but which did lead to awesome giant monster scenes. Needless to say, I wasn’t very impressed. Actually, I was flabberghasted. Why am I talking about this as a writer? Because this happens with books too. Let’s discuss. There is a meta-level motivation for anything that happens in a book, and it’s usually (although not always) ‘to advance the story.’ Why did the villain kill the hero’s brother? (So …

Glamour Review (plus a sale!)

One of the books my publisher World Weaver Press recently published is called Glamour (written by Andrea Janes), and while on the surface the book is about witches, don’t let that fool you. It’s really about how power corrupts, the contrast between haves and have-nots, judging books by their covers, and the dangers of getting what you wish for (especially when it comes at someone else’s expense.) Good stuff, wonderfully written. Really the kind of work that deserves to be shared, so where I am, sharing it. So I wasn’t given an advance reader copy of this book but I actually went out and bought it myself. Because. (Okay, I liked the cover art.) I’m very glad I did. As Hannibal Lecter once asked: What do we covet, Clarice? Answer with me: we covet what we see every day. In this case, the ‘we’ is a young woman named Christina, who grew up in, lives, and works in a small Cape Cod resort town that might once have been the set of a Lovecraftian group of cultists, but now …

Leaving Carcosa: Post-Mortem on True Detective

This is coming in a bit late for those who have already finished watching the first series of True Detective (I wrote this the night after the season finale, but real life interfered with the posting,) but I figure the show will have a long tail as people watch it later, so here we are. So first, some background: I only started watching True Detective because I heard about the King in Yellow connection. For those unaware, the King in Yellow is the name of a collection of short stories written by Robert Chambers, published in 1895. He borrowed the city of Carcosa from writer Ambrose Bierce, but otherwise introduced the idea of the mysterious titular entity, a occult ‘Yellow Sign’ and a play that would drive its viewers insane. Only four stories in the collection directly concern the King in Yellow, but that was enough. Chamber’s work was lovingly appropriated by H.P. Lovecraft and merged with the greater Lovecraft milieu, becoming part of a rich body of horror mythology, the King in Yellow accepted …

Kumiho

Kumiho was a short story I wrote about 10 years back, and semi-autobiographical. I chanced upon it when looking through some old files and decided to share it. _______________ Since my boyfriend lost his car last summer, I’ve been taking the bus a lot. You meet a weird lot riding the bus, especially in Los Angeles, where public transportation is the option of last resort. There are the people who hop on and immediately open up the cases of stolen watches, the homeless who haven’t bathed in weeks if not months and sometimes, the people like me who are just enduring the commute to work. These are generic descriptions, but there are some very specific characters I’ve encountered: one fellow who carries a white cane and pretends to be blinds so he can ride for free; an old sweet-looking grandmotherly woman who always wears the same tweed suit with lace gloves and is so terrified that there won’t be any room for her on the bus she always cuts in front of the line, even …

SFWA blows up…again.

For the last year, pretty much coinciding with my determination to make this writing thing really happen, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America has been embroiled with multiple strings of ugly controversies involving sexism, racism and the unfortunate growing pains of a changing marketplace and industry. Full disclosure: currently, I can’t join SFWA. I am an outsider, and I’ve never been a member of the organization. That does not mean, however, that I don’t look to the organization, and that I don’t expect them to represent my interests. I do. I find Writers Beware to be an invaluable resource, and I respect and admire the effort that SFWA has made to protect writers from exploitation. They do a whole lot for the community. I want them to succeed, flourish, and damn it, I want to be a proud members some day. But just like knowing that your uncle Joe is a great guy who didn’t flinch at co-signing your first car loan doesn’t mean you have to excuse the fact he still calls …

Reviews: Books on Writing

Over the holidays and into the new year, I’ve been reading two books on the craft of writing itself: Dwight Swain’s Techniques for the Selling Writer and Stephen King’s On Writing. Dwight Swain’s book is pretty old, a bit hard to find, and honestly I’d never heard of it before I started to wonder why YWriter (my program of choice of late for book writing) had some of the special features it does for action and reaction scenes and the like. I wasn’t quite sure what to think of Dwight Swain’s book at first: it’s pretty clearly meant for pulp writing and some of the advice seems better suited to short stories than novels. While Swain himself is quick to point out he is simply describing tools which may be used or discarded at will, some of his most fervent advocates take his advice nearly to the point of religious gospel. Despite this, it’s a terrifically meaty book, filled with some of the best advice I’ve ever seen on pacing and creating tension. One could …

Make Believe

The above link goes to a Ted talk a friend sent to me earlier. I had a very strong, visceral response to it, as did several other women who saw it. Let’s just say it’s a high-emotional impact piece, particularly if you’ve ever been powerless, introverted, or felt like you were a fraud. Go and watch it by all means, but one of the things that Amy Cuddy brings up is the idea that if you pretend at a thing, you can inadvertently believe your own lies — and that’s not a bad thing. Force yourself to smile, even if you’re feeling melancholy, and (lab studies indicate) your mood will improve. Pretend to be angry and become angry. The physical body and how we chose to use it can directly affect brain chemistry, which means the little choices we make in how we stand, sit, and present ourselves to others can directly affect how we actually feel about ourselves. Is that not the scariest and most wonderful idea ever? I’m not quite buying into the …

A toast for 2013

This was the year everything changed. It started with a Cracked article. Yes, Cracked. Now, Cracked sometimes sneaks in life lessons with their weird history and nerd comedy, and at the beginning of 2013, David Wong of Cracked issued a challenge to his readers: make 2013 the year that you close (warning: Alec Baldwin says mean things in that clip.) No excuses, no bullshit, no tired old lines about how you couldn’t because (insert whatever excuse is your preferred reason for not getting it done here.) No trite promises quickly abandoned, no self-defeating battles with the mirror. 2013 wouldn’t be about what we are, but what we do. He left what up to the reader. Learn a language, a martial art, make a painting, write a book. Learn a tangible skill, create a tangible result, do something. CLOSE. Kick some items off the bucket list, figure out what makes life worth living and DO THAT THING. Not too hard to guess that my vow for 2013 was to finish one of the three books that had floundered …

Book Covers: Project Example

Okay, so in part 3 of this series, we’re now going to take what we’ve learned and apply it a real life example. Okay, a fictional example. A fictional example of fiction I totally made up. Even though I do in fact have a book cover on my to-do list right now (for The Culling Fields, the book I finished as part of NaNoWriMo 2013) I’m going to do evil, naughty things to the first example of such, and I don’t like the idea of doing it for a book that will actually see publication. Potentially awkward. Thus, let’s go with something invented for that purpose. “A Litany of Ashes” is a post-apocalyptic YA about a teenage girl in a small community that survives by its religious rituals, designed to keep at bay the demons of radiation and nuclear fallout. But when she begins to think the demons are literal, is she going insane or has a terrifying new threat arisen in the post-nuclear landscape? So it’s a bit A Canticle for Leibowitz meets Handmaid’s …

Book Covers: Backgrounds

In part 1 of this series, I talked about typography. Let’s talk about backgrounds. Now I don’t know about you, but it’s not type that trips me up on book covers; it’s the backgrounds. There’s so much advice out here on this, and it’s often really contradictory. For example: genre-fiction often shows the hero and love interest on the front cover while this is apparently a huge faux pas in literary fiction. Some books barely have any background art at all, while on others, the artwork is the entire focus. If it makes you scream, you’re not alone. So let’s address the elephant in the room first thing. Money. You remember that old saying about ‘you can get it good, fast, or cheap: pick two?’ Never has that saying been more true than right now for book covers. Most self-published authors aren’t really looking to pay a lot of money for this stuff. Many of us just can’t. I don’t know about you, but I just don’t have the bucks to spend. And doing this …