When I was a young(er) person, I was a voracious reader. I blew through books all the time. Once, during a school reading challenge, I read so many books that I ran out of books to read, and ended up doubling up on some titles. I read so many books, my teachers didn’t believe me. They thought I made up the lot. Reading so much, and loving every minute I got to dive into another world; that I got to escape my reality for a little bit is in no small part of why I’m a writer now.
But I will admit, that I’ve been struggling to read of late. A combination of a time-consuming job, several side-hustles, and the added stress of a global pandemic, and all the stupidity of (some) folks regarding it, losing a long-time flatmate and having to move…. It’s all added up. The result was that I could barely pick myself up, let alone a book.
Dear Diary, I have started my new novel, just like I resolved to do! This project, Dearest Diary, will be codenamed Caterpillar, as it is basically in larval form. Get it? Or should it be called Ovum, as it is actually not as developed as a full larva? No, that sounds stupid. Caterpillar it is! Welcome, Caterpillar!
This novel is going to be a romance, in which our heroine, Margarite, an investment banker, meets Jacques, a poor tile-layer, and falls in love with him. Her well-to-do family will put all manner of obstacles in their path toward fulfillment!
On a side note, the house next door has finally been occupied. The moving truck arrived near dawn, right as I was beginning Caterpillar during my early-writing time. Perhaps Jacques should arrive at Margarite’s villa at dawn. Very romantic! Weather: Sunny, cold. Emotional Weather: Sparkly!
Well, hidey-ho there, friend! Let me ask you something. Have you or a loved one ever been writing something – say, a novel, or a short story, or heck, even a sonnet– and found yourself apprehensive about the dialogue to come? Or have you ever felt the reverse, an all-encompassing need to document the details of every character’s chit-chat? If so, you might be on the Dialogue Malappropriation Spectrum, or DMS for short. Golly, I’m not sure. Can you tell me more? Continue from 180. I most certainly do not! Continue from 320. I do. I really do! Continue from 440. You again? Listen, I thought I made it clear I’m just here for the stories and gaming stuff. Continue from 230.
He and I were in the Clarion West class hailed as the future of science fiction. Three Black women, three Asian women (including me), three Jewish men (including Ben), people from five different countries altogether: nowadays that may seem quaint, and that’s part of what we talk about in this interview. The world has changed a lot and as an author always exploring the limits of what it is to be human, Ben has gotten a front row seat to the challenge of asking questions that are relevant not just now, but ten years from now. Edgy questions about gender in one decade can become absurdly sexist by the next. Gender is one of the many concepts he explores in his upcoming novel, The Unraveling.
100: Well, howdy there, Friend! Let me ask you a question. Do you or a spouse struggle with Character Development Mania, known more commonly as CDM? Oh, I hear you, Friend. It’s not easy to admit it when you have a problem and need help. But you can trust me, I’m in sales! This sounds serious. Tell me more about CDM! Continue from 230. This doesn’t sound like a real thing. Continue from 350. I’m mostly here for the fiction and game stuff, not the writing advice. Continue from 410.
Hello, Friend! Are you a writer who struggles with Scene Development Instability, sometimes called SDI? I know, it can be hard to talk about in public, but let me reassure you, Friend, that SDI can be treated!
Great, tell me more! Read on from 400. I’m not actually a Writer! Read on from 300. I only write short stories, so I’m immune to SDI. Read on from 200.
I love villains. They’re often at the center of what makes a great adventure story tick. They force our protagonists to take action, to face their worst fears and come out better, to outdo themselves again and again. They push character arcs, drive narratives, and illuminate the differences between regular people and heroes. In short, villains get the story up and out.
Ask an author what the most important storytelling element is and they’ll probably tell you it’s conflict. Conflict occurs when the main character meets a challenge to their goals. In sword and sorcery, that challenge is often a person. While there are the famed man vs. self, man vs. society, and man vs. nature conflicts as well, antagonists are some of the most engaging sources of conflict because they’re human. Or human-like. We’re programmed to engage more with characters than we do with snowstorms or oppressive governing entities.
I’m not sure if this is a sign of anything in particular that might be wrong with me, but growing up, there was no one in any field — sports, literature, politics, or life — that I considered a hero of mine. There were certainly people whose skill and success I greatly admired. My favourite artists come out of the surrealist movement, and they are remarkable, both in how well the portray realism and how expertly they undermine it; twist it and make it strange. I have always loved Tolkien and regularly stand in awe of what he built. I feel the same way about Steven Erikson, a more contemporary writer. Martin Lass was my favourite violinist, and Tommy and Phil Emmanuel my favourite all-time guitarists. I was enamoured with the skill of tennis stars Pat Cash and Pat Rafter…
If you needed proof of my Australian-ness, I think that’s it right there…
The Woman in the Coffin by Nathan Long (Oolong Books, February 18 2021)
So, I accidentally wrote a novella.
When I told him about it, John O’Neill congratulated me on my sagacity for following the current trend in novellas, but that was never my intention. I’m so out of the loop I didn’t even know there was such a trend. What I had set out to do was to entertain my friend Elizabeth Watasin by writing a serial adventure set in her Dark Victorian world and sending her a chapter every week. It just so happened when I put all the chapters together they turned out to be novella length and not too terrible, so there you go. And, yes, as you have already deduced, not only is it a novella, it’s a fan-fic novella. I so fell in love with the swooniness of Elizabeth’s world and characters that I was inspired to write a Watasin-adjacent story of my own. And, to add to its other sins, it’s very possible I won’t write a follow up.
Given all that (fan-fic, runtish length, no ‘long tail’) what the hell am I doing making The Woman in the Coffin the first thing I self-publish? Honestly, I don’t know. I have two finished full length novels in the trunk that would only require a copy-edit and a cover to put up on Amazon, but did I publish those? No. I picked the thing that requires half a page of mea culpa to explain, and which I had to ask Elizabeth’s permission to publish.
I have been thinking a lot recently about life, writing and all the things that orbit around those things. Currently, while I’m waiting for things here in Ottawa, Canada to return to something approaching normal again (it looks like we’ll be close at the beginning of 2022), there isn’t much else I’ve been able to do. I find in my writing endeavors, I’m chugging along well enough, but a daily routine of writing at lunch isn’t really anything worth blogging about. As for films and television, I’m falling back to old favorites, as they are comforting and relatively without stressed. I know what’s going to happen.
It has been quite depressing to all my youthful hopes and dreams that I haven’t been able to make a living writing. I wasn’t expecting to become rich. But I was hoping to be able to scrape by. That has not materialized. It was a hard lesson to learn, really, particularly since I have to keep relearning it every time I get any time at all to think about life and where I am in it.
Writing, however, has taught me an awful lot about life that I’m extremely grateful for, that translates well in almost every other endeavor of mine.