Monthly Archives: April 2013

7 Writing Lessons from George R. R. Martin

Like many people, I’ve gotten hooked on George R. R. Martin’s fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire (adapted for television as Game of Thrones ). I’m reading it not only as a fan of epic fantasy, but also as a fantasy writer. Whether you like the books or not, there’s a lot to learn from them.

For example…

(NOTE: This post contains spoilers through A Storm of Swords, which is the third book of the five that are currently out. If you’re watching the TV series and haven’t read the books, you probably won’t want to read further — the current season will end halfway through the events of A Storm of Swords. I haven’t read the last two books yet, so if you have, please don’t post spoilers for the last two books.)

1. Some readers will follow you anywhere…if they trust you. Martin is infamous for killing off characters you thought were safe by the rules (or tropes) of fantasy writing. Granted, he’s lost readers because of it — dark, gritty fantasy isn’t for everyone. But he still has huge numbers of readers clamoring for more. Why? Because they’ve grown to trust his storytelling skills. He’s shown that he’s in control, that his plotting is well thought out, that he doesn’t kill characters without a good reason. More than that, he tells a story that people want to hear, despite the risks.

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Levelling Up in Chiang Mai, Thailand

It’s time for another installment of travel tales from my Grand Adventure in Asia. Now that I’m no longer travelling, I plan to post these on alternate Wednesdays, interspersed with the same sort of mental-health posts and personal observations that I was writing before the trip. Mondays will continue to be about books and media (SF&F-focused, but not exclusively), as always. I’ll continue to post twice a week for now. Enjoy!

Our first stop in Thailand was Chiang Mai, the country’s second-biggest city. It’s in the northwest part of Thailand, among rolling hills that keep the temperatures down to something very reasonable for North Americans. This means it’s a popular destination, not only for North Americans but also for Chinese tourists, whose numbers have exploded recently due to cheap flights.

We found Chiang Mai to be more intense than Malaysia, in all sorts of ways. Because we’re geeks, we quickly started to talk about this as “levelling up” — a video-game term referring to mastering a level and moving on to the next. For example…

The Traffic

The stupa in front of our guesthouse

The stupa in front of our guesthouse

Our guesthouse, Kamala’s, was on a tiny side street. (Note on addresses: Non-main streets are known in Thailand as sois. Thai addresses give the nearest main road, then the number of the soi, because the sois themselves don’t have names, even though they may be large streets. So Kamala’s was on Chai Sriphum, Soi 1.) Across the soi was an old Buddhist stupa, a useful landmark since it was visible from several streets away.

The soi was lined with other guesthouses and the occasional Thai massage place, but it was short on restaurants. This turned out to be a problem because the traffic was utterly terrifying…

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Books for Earth Day

Happy Earth Day!

I’m a quiet but staunch environmentalist, and I suspect that books had a lot to do with this side of my personality (and most of the rest, for that matter). Here, then, are some books to celebrate on Earth Day…

Cautionary Tales

For those of us growing up in the ’80s and early ’90s, science fiction for teens (the term “YA” hadn’t been invented yet) tended to follow a few familiar tropes. Dystopian tales were popular, as were stories about aliens and spaceships. And it was almost taken for granted that our planet was going to come close to destruction, usually for environmental reasons.

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Coming Home with Fresh Eyes

If you’re anything like me, you sometimes wish that you could step back and look at your life with fresh eyes. A new perspective on your time spent, your priorities, your living arrangements…what would it look like?

Well, I’m lucky enough to be experiencing just that. I’ve just returned from a three-month trip through Asia. My house looked pretty unfamiliar when I first stepped in the door, let me tell you — and not just because I haven’t lived here that long. I’m still working to get a handle on post-travel life, but here’s what I’ve got so far…

0. We’re lucky to live in a first-world country. There’s a lot we take for granted in countries like Canada. But you knew that, and I won’t elaborate on it, because for the purposes of this post, that’s not what I’m interested in.

1. I have too much stuff. I spent three months living out of two backpacks (more about that in a future post). Did I miss my closet, let alone the entire rest of my house? No. Do people over there own as much as we do? No — of course there’s a lot more poverty, but even the middle-class homes we visited were compact apartment-style residences, not overflowing with stuff. Now that I’m back, I can’t remember what I actually liked to wear, for example, and what was just in my closet because I didn’t want to get rid of it yet. There’s stuff everywhere and it all looks strange to me. Calling FlyLady

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Turtleduck Press New Release — Captain’s Boy by KD Sarge

First of all, my heart goes out to the marathon runners in Boston and all those affected by the events there. It’s horrible to contemplate — so many personal triumphs turned to tragedy in an instant. I’m sending healing thoughts southward as I type.

Having said that, I would be remiss in my duties as editor at Turtleduck Press if I delayed this announcement any longer. This month we have a new SF novel out: Captain’s Boy by KD Sarge.

Captain's Boy cover

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