Boise Novel Orchard is sponsoring a contest! With prizes! For North-West writers and artists!
What do you need to do to win? First, you need to enter. To enter, you’ll need to write something using the theme “bridges.” Fiction and non-fiction should be between 3,000 and 5,000 words, poetry no more than 22 lines. We’re looking for black and white cover art too! There’s a $10 entry fee, with one entry per person.

What are we offering up? Winners will be published in a chapbook, due to be released in May. There’s also a cash prize. Entries are due no later than March 20, 2010.

There are more details here, on the website.


Anyone planning on going to Norwescon, April 09?

Good morning.

During one of our previous meetings, one of our members brought up the subject of Digital book readers. I can’t remember who it was that brought up this subject, but I am being hounded for idea’s for Christmas. I was wondering if anybody has found a good digital book reader, or does someone have a good suggestion on what brand to get.


Chris Hogan

I got a reply from Samhain. A no thank you. I think I prefer the long response time, then I can delude myself that they were tempted. For some reason this one was really hard for me. Maybe because it’s the first non-personal rejection. But I think its more that I had gotten …arrogant? Not quiet the right word…. I was so sure that this would be a good fit. I even made the mistake of telling someone that I felt close. That’s like when one of the character’s on a tv/movie says it can’t get any worse and then it does. I just want to climb into bed and ignore life for a bit but instead I packed my writing bag and headed for the coffee shop to work.

I didn’t get much done. Distracted. My mind wanting to analyze the different angles, where I should submit next, etc. Then my nemesis Kathy Hurley sat across the café from me. Then I had to work. I’m not saying were enemies or even Frenemies. She’s great. But having another author who could see I was goofing off instead of working was a great kick in the pants to get started and the rest of the night was very productive.

So, I’m not giving up on RNR, no freaking way, but I’m juggling a little publisher research with working on SAR so I can figure out where to send it next and how to spin it. Wish me luck.

So let’s get some chatter going. What do you do with rejections?

Romance Writers are Happy Ending Experts

Which is neither tip like or daily.

If you aren’t getting Publishers Lunch you should. Publishers Marketplace is a great source of industry information for writers. Who is buying/selling what genre? Agents that switch houses and new genre lines being launched. However it costs to get all the info. For the highlights (still great info) is Publishers Lunch which is emailed to you regularly for FREE. Go here and sign up. Half way down the page is a

Please Note: Click Here

The following is the presentation I made to the SpecFic group on July 17, 2008.  Posted here in expanded form to cover more of what we talked about as well as more examples.

I.                    Introduction

Characters are the way to convey your story to the reader.  If the reader is not engaged by your character(s) in some way, they’ll put the book down.  It matters not what the character looks like, only that he/she make the reader feel something other than antipathy.


II.                  The Main Characters

a.       Protagonist

                                                               i.      Dudley Do-right makes me yawn.  A hero without flaws is boring.  He/she cannot be perfect! 

                                                             ii.      External or internal, the flaws have to be something that the reader can relate to, or feel sympathy/empathy for. 

                                                            iii.      There has to be a reason for the flaw(s), and for not fixing them before the story opens.  The reader has to understand the reason, even if it is unspoken. 

                                                           iv.      At some point, the protagonist has to realize their flaw, and either figure out a way around it, to overcome it, or to use it to their advantage.

                                                             v.      For the plot to be completed, at least one flaw HAS to be defeated in some manner

b.      Antagonist

                                                               i.      The antagonist is not necessarily the villain!

                                                             ii.      The antagonist is merely the person/thing that inspires change in the protagonist. 

                                                            iii.      You can have multiple antagonists, and they don’t even have to be main characters in the book

                                                           iv.      If your antagonist is human (they don’t have to be), he/she must have flaws in order to be “human.”

                                                             v.      See Protagonist, Villain, and Support Crew, for more details. 

c.       The Villain

                                                               i.      Snidely Whiplash and Dr. Evil don’t give me nightmares.  Evil for evil’s sake is flat; it does not inspire the need to annihilate.  Think Hannibal Lecter, instead. 

                                                             ii.       There has to be a reason for the villain to be who they are, has to be a reason that they oppose the protagonist, and it has to be believable. 

                                                            iii.      The villain can be the antithesis of the protagonist, or a near foil.  They cannot be milk toast, lukewarm, or hum-drum. 

                                                           iv.      The villain must have flaws!  However, the villain lacks the ability to rise above their flaws, even should it mean their life.

1.       Protagonist is selfish, but by the end of the book, thinks of someone or something other than themselves

2.       Villain is selfish to the end and willing to sacrifice the world without qualm or question to get what they want 

                                                             v.      If you choose to have the antagonist redeem him/herself at the end, then that had better be a satisfying, logical conclusion or the reader will throw your book across the room and never buy another.


III.                The Support Crew

a.       Secondary, Tertiary, and Periphery

                                                               i.      These characters are the mirrors by which the mains are judged.  The closer the character is to the mains, the bigger their mirror.

                                                             ii.      Interactions with the support crew can give the protagonist/antagonist added depth because you are showing, not telling. 

                                                            iii.      Like the mains, the actions, reactions, and behaviors of the support crew has to be believable.

                                                           iv.       Those actions, reactions, and behaviors have to affect the main character(s) in some way.


IV.                Beyond the three dimensional

There are ways of developing and describing your character(s) to your audience without it reading like a police profile or vital statistics.  (It’s best not to get too exact in physical descriptions; leave some of it to the reader’s imagination.)  Deeper aspects can be developed by using the following techniques. 

a.       Foils

                                                               i.      Comedic: the funny man, and the straight man.  One delivers, the other receives, both enhance the hilarity.  Separately, they may be funny, but together, they are a riot.  George Burns and Gracie Allen, Lucille Ball and Dezi Arnez. 

                                                             ii.      Antithesis: often the hero and villain, they are a dichotomy that works to build the whole.  Without one, the other cannot exist, and has no direction, no purpose.  They give each other the reason to continue. 

1.       It can be two protagonists such as Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes: two mains with different strengths and weaknesses that complement each other.

2.       In the movie “Unbreakable,” you have Bruce Willis’ character, David Dunn, and the character of Mr. Glass, played by Samuel Jackson.  They are extreme opposites, both internally and externally, but they attract.

                                                            iii.      Near: this is both the hardest and easiest to achieve.  It is easy to make a character just one or two critical traits from the protagonist.  However, it is integral that both be part of the story and to the outcome of the plot.  Like calls to like, or they can repel each other. 

1.       In the movie “Batman Begins,” Christian Bale plays Bruce Wayne, and Liam Neeson plays Henri Ducard, aka Ra’s Al Ghul.  Similar background, similar tragedies in their pasts, and similar purpose: fight crime.  They only differ in how far they will go, who they are willing to sacrifice, what role they want to play in their private war.  One has a scorched earth policy; the other is more into surgical strikes.

b.      What they are not.

                                                               i.      How do you describe something intangible?  Try describing “average,” and see how far you get.

                                                             ii.      Described by what he is:

1.       Harry Tubman was a brown man in every sense of the word.  Of middling height and weight, of indeterminate age, nationality, and mediocrity, he blended in with the crowd.  He was just a plain man, in a plain city, a grain of sand in the desert of humanity.

                                                            iii.      Described by what he isn’t:

1.       Harry Tubman was neither tall nor short, nor skinny nor fat, neither light nor dark.  His face was neither round nor square nor any other clearly defined shape.  His hair was neither brown nor blonde nor red.  He wasn’t a blip on anyone’s radar.

                                                           iv.       We all know what average means, but seeing the word described by what it isn’t, is intriguing.   

                                                             v.      This approach has a very different rhythm which calls attention to itself.  Because it stands out, use it carefully and sparingly, and only to make a point.

c.       Ix-nay on author intrusion 

                                                               i.      3rd person omniscient has its place, however, the voice of the narrator should be heard as little as possible.  If it comes in at all, make it count!

                                                             ii.      This line makes me cringe: Janice Bark was a spiritual girl.

1.       What kind of spiritual? How deeply spiritual?  Why should we care?

2.       In the big scheme of things, the above statement means nothing because it tells the reader exactly nothing.  They’re wasted words. 

                                                            iii.      “Spiritual” can be better defined through the character’s behavior, interactions, and thoughts.  The reader will get the idea without being “told” outright that the character is spiritual.   

                                                           iv.      Don’t assume your reader is stupid.  Show, don’t tell, and they will pick up the clues and draw their own conclusions. 






I will on occasion, be introducing you to some podcasts that I am enjoying because they are in some way related to SF/F. Podcasts, for the uninitiated, are audio programs that are down loadable from the web and intended to be listened to on your MP3 player.

First up is a podcast that focuses on publishing from an aspiring writer’s point of view – Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing. How pertinent is that to the audience of this blog?

Shaun Farrell and Sam Wynns collaborate on the podcast which includes news and interviews with writers and editors in the business. If you’re looking for a smart, and entertaining podcast with plenty of focus on industry news, you can’t go wrong with Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing. They are currently teaming up with TOR and Pyr SF in a contest called, Keys to Publishing, which includes timely writing and publishing tips and free books from both publishers.

There’s more good content that I don’t have the space for here, so go and download the latest issue and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes or from their recently updated and shiny new web site.

There is a new grammar post over at Valerie is looking for some new material, so if you have a grammar question go and post a comment.

There will be a book signing for the Barren Worlds Anthology at the Rediscovered Bookshop in Boise, at 2:00 pm on the 26th of July. Two authors with stories featured in the anthology will be on hand to sign books and talk about their stories; Mary Ellen Martin from Moscow, Idaho and Ken McConnell from Boise, Idaho.

Come on out and help support local book sellers and local SF authors by purchasing this beautiful new book from Hadley Rille Press.