Friday, August 28, 2015

Ask Unca Mike





Science fiction and fantasy writers are a group are extraordinarily generous with advice to new writers. A moment's thought, however, reveals that this is just encouraging talented young people to occupy the publishing niches and win the awards that would otherwise go to to us Old Hands. Ask Unca Mike is an attempt to rectify this deplorable situation.



Titles of the Purple Sage

 Coyote writes: Everybody tells me my titles suck.  But I think that "An Incident," "The Package," and "Road Kill" are pretty darned cool.  Please tell me that I'm right and they're wrong.

First of all, my editor friends tell me that "Road Kill" is the single most common title in the slush pile.  Imagine the glory of writing the best story with that title! You might want to consider using it for every story you write until you achieve that glad accomplisment.

Failing that, you definitely should stay with your soporiphic-to-the-point-of-tears titles.  Primed to expect a boring, tedious story, the readers will encounter the brilliance that is your prose and the mesmeric qualities of your storytelling.  They will be amazed.

Or so, anyway, I would like to believe you will believe.


If you have a question for Unca Mike you can post it below. Or write to AskUncaMike ("at" sign) gmail.com. I'll respond tho those I have the best answers for.

Ask Unca Mike appears here on Fridays.

Above: As always, I'm on the road again.  As it turns out, Yellowstone is off the grid.  I managed to keep on schedule, technically.  But I apologize for not being on time according to your schedule.



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On the Road to Yellowstone

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As always, I'm on the road again.  A week ago last Saturday, I drove to North Carolina for a book tour. When I returned home, I hit the sack and got up early to catch a plane to Spokane for the World Science Fiction Convention.  It was an eventful weekend, made particularly dramatic by the smoke from nearby wildfires that filled the city with smoke, turned the sun red at noon, and dropped flakes of soot from the sky.

So, to relax after all that, Marianne and I are driving to Yellowstone in Montana.

Yesterday, we drove for long hours up a dirt road through smoke-filled valleys, startlin bighorn sheep and coming upon unexpected waterfalls.  We passed through the Bitterroot and Sapphire Mountains before coming to rest at last in Butte. There's a lot of character to Butte, and to the Fingen Hotel where we're staying as well. Montana must be a great place to be a photographer.

If I want to see all we plan to see, howver, I've got to put a few hundred miles on the odometer.  So, well... Off I go!

More news as it occurs.


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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sasquan Memories

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Wednesday, I drove for twelve hours from Asheville, NC to Philadelphia. The next morning, I got up early and caught a flight to Spokane. And from Thursday afternoon until Sunday evening, I attended Sasquan.

Here are a few of the things that made me happy about this year's Worldcon:

1. Spokane itself.  Beautful city, lots of old buildings, a very nice river park that's used as a venue for lots of cultural events. I'm sorry that I'm going to miss the Chinese lantern festival, though.

(The wildfires in the region turned the sky gray and the sun red, filled the air with smoke and rained down ash in a dramatically apocalyptic manner; but that was hardly the city's fault.)

2. Hanging out with Vonda McIntyre and Robert Silverberg in the green room.

3. Seeing Cixin Liu's The Three-Body Problem win the Hugo for best novel.  I have friends in the Chinese science fiction community, so seeing this become the first foreign novel in translation to win the award was a big deal to me.  But more than that, I admired the novel for its own sake. Right now I'm reading the next book in the trilogy. Several people who read Chinese have told me it's even better than the first.

4. The fact that next year, when I'm goh at MAC II, Pat Cadigan will be toastmaster.  Pat and I are pals from way back. I'm thinking we'll have a ball.

5. Learning that The 2017 Worldcon will be held in Helsinki.  All four bids were desirable destinations, and I'm friends with the D. C. people and the Canadians both, so whichever way the vote came out, I was going to be happy.  But I have to admit that I'm delighted to have the excuse to visit Finland again.

6. Signing lots and lots of autographs. Some of those who asked seemed to think it was a bit of an imposition on me. Nope. I enjoy it. I also enjoyed the panels and the reading.

7. Getting to congratulate Joe and Gay Haldeman on their fiftieth wedding anniversary.

8. The Hugo Losers Party in Auntie's Book Store. Great venue and it felt like a real party. Also, I met Ken Liu there.

9. The words "He's dreamy" in MAC 2's promo film.  I wasn't a bit offended when it got a big lauugh.

10. Having the opportunity to have a conversation with Gregory Manchess.

11. Dinner with former F&SF editor (but still publisher) Gordon Van Gelder.

12. Getting to see Lee Moyer again. And Phil and Kaja Foglio. And Ellen Datlow, Eileen Gunn, and John Berry, for the first time since we wandered through China in April. And Ellen Klages, Judith Berman, Les Howle, and Karl Schroeder. And Chales Finlay and Gary K. Wolfe and... But if I don't stop here the list will start to look inclusive and the dozens and dozens of good friends I haven't mentioned will think I've forgotten them and will feel hurt.  Not a bit of it.  I'm just looking forward to...

13.  A good long sleep at the end of it all. 'Night, all.


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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Ask Unca Mike





Science fiction and fantasy writers are a group are extraordinarily generous with advice to new writers. A moment's thought, however, reveals that this is just encouraging talented young people to occupy the publishing niches and win the awards that would otherwise go to to us Old Hands. Ask Unca Mike is an attempt to rectify this deplorable situation.



Withholding Plot

 Miss Plotz writes: I began my novel by "setting the scene" and dropping clues as to the nature of the story for the reader to memorize.  This took roughly twenty pages. My writing group tells me that I should begin the plot earlier than I did. Are they right?

Quite the contrary.  You should put off beginning the plot for as long as possible.  Picture a reader who picks up your novel in a bookstore. She begins reading to see whether it's something she might want to buy. Twenty pages in, she has no idea. Nor does she at forty, sixty, a hundred. The hours fly by. The bookstore owner scowls and taps her wristwatch.  Your victim has no choice but to buy the book or be haunted forever by the possibility that somewhere down the line all this wasted effort will pay off.

You may have made an enemy -- but you've also sold a book.



If you have a question for Unca Mike you can post it below. Or write to AskUncaMike ("at" sign) gmail.com. I'll respond tho those I have the best answers for.

Ask Unca Mike appears here on Fridays.

Above: as always, I'm on the road again.  The Ask Unca Mike logo will return when I do.


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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

As Always...

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I'm on the road again!

Today, I drive some 650 miles home.  Then, in the morning, I'll get up bright and early to catch a plane and fly to Sasquan.

Which is wht today's post is so short.

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Monday, August 17, 2015

Visit Me in North Carolina

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I spent two very pleasant hours at WCOM this morning being interviewed by Samuel Montgomery-Blinn and Mur Lafferty for Carolina Book Beat.  In addition to it going out live, I believe they're going to put the show up on the Web.  It should be worth hearing just for the "dinosaura and sodomy" story.  People seem to like that one, for some reason.

Tonight, I'll be reading from CHASING THE PHOENIX and talking about the novel at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill.  I'd love to make this a successful event for them, so if you know somebody in the area, urge them to attend.

Gently, of course.

And tomorrow I'll be in Ashville at Malaprop's Bookstore and Cafe.  That should be fun too.  Again, if you have friends in the area, turn 'em out!  Let's make Mrs. Malaprop glad she invited me.


And on Wednesday . . .

I'll be driving home to Philadelphia the day after tomorrow, so I'm afaid there won't be a post up here.  If this seems odd to you, try Mapquest.  You'll be impressed.


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Friday, August 14, 2015

Ask Unca Mke

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Science fiction and fantasy writers are a group are extraordinarily generous with advice to new writers. A moment's thought, however, reveals that this is just encouraging talented young people to occupy the publishing niches and win the awards that would otherwise go to to us Old Hands. Ask Unca Mike is an attempt to rectify this deplorable situation.


Fact and Fiction

Dear Unca Mike,

I am a much better writer in my mind than I am on paper. In my imagination my stories are brilliant and get nominated for all kinds of awards. Why are the stories I actually write so terrible?

(Signed) "Walter"

The solution to your problem is blindingly obvious: In your mind, invent an imaginary science fiction magazine and submit your stories there.


Dear Unca Mike:

My problem is that all my story ideas seem wasted on fiction.

Wouldn't a well-researched, reasonably plausible science fiction story idea likely earn a better return as the prospectus for a startup company?  Or at least a Kickstarter?

Wouldn't a cracking good idea for a bank heist plot be better used on an actual bank?  And so on.

(Signed) Realist

Will F. Jenkins, who under the name of Murray Leinster was known as the Dean of Science Fiction, once told me that he started with ideas for scientific inventions and then thought about them until he figured out either how to make them work or why they wouldn’t. If an idea worked, he patented it. If it didn’t, he wrote a science fiction story papering over the flaw that made it impossible. You would do well to follow his example.

As for the bank heist, however… Theodore Sturgeon has stated that he began writing because he’d come up with the perfect crime and lacked the nerve to try it out. I’ve read that story that resulted, however, and it would have landed him in the hoosegow. You would be wise to follow his example as well.


Dear Unca Mike,

I can't seem to get an editor of an SF magazine to publish me. I've read a lot of your advice, but I'm sure I must have missed some of it along the way or I would be published by now. Will it all ever be collected into an e-book or, even, a paperback?

(Signed)  "Thank You For Submitting, But..."

 Try submitting your stories to Walter’s Imaginary Science Fiction Magazine. I hear they’ll take anything.


If you have a question for Unca Mike you can post it below. Or write to AskUncaMike ("at" sign) gmail.com. I'll respond tho those I have the best answers for.

Ask Unca Mike will run here on Fridays.


And more seriously. . .

As always, I'm on the road again. This time, I'm headed for North Carolina to promote my new and madly entertaining Darger & Surplus novel, Chasing the Phoenix.  Why not stop in on an event and say hi?  

Here's where I'll be:.

Saturday, August 15 


Quail Ridge Books and Music  – 7pm
3522 Wade Ave
Raleigh, NC  C
Sunday, August 16 

Oak City Comic Show

3415 Wake Forest Road
Raleigh, NC 27609   
Monday, August 17

Flyleaf Books  – 7pm
752 MLK Jr Boulevard
Chapel Hill, NC 27514

Tuesday, August 18

Malaprop’s Bookstore and Cafe – 7pm

55 Haywood Street
Asheville, NC 28801    


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