On Structuring Novels' Chapters
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Writing professor and multiply-published author Deborah Chester's recent post "Chapter Structure" provides a look at how chapter lengths and their content have evolved in modern books, and offers advice on what to put in a chapter.  She writes:

"Don’t worry about whether you have a one-scene chapter, a one-sequel chapter, or a combination of the two types of dramatic units.
Instead, think about a chapter as a division of story that opens with a grab for the reader’s attention and builds to a hook at its conclusion."


While reading the work of her former student Jim Butcher, I noticed he frequently places chapter ends on a scene disaster.  This practice has two apparent effects.  First, think of your own book-reading.  Ask yourself if you've ever had a thought like this: "It's late, I should go do X, so I'll just bookmark this at the end of the chapter I'm on.  It's not far.  I'll stop then. At the end of the next chapter."  Jim Butcher thwwwwwarts (this is like regular 'thwarts' but more vigorous) this intent by creating an emergency you must see resolved.  You can't put the book down there, you have to know what happens.  (This is why I think folks raged at the end of Changes: they had more than a year to wait for the other shoe to drop after reading the scene disaster that answered the book's question about whether the protagonist would survive ocnflict with the forces arrayed against him.  While Jim Butcher likes to claim Changes wasn't technically a cliffhanger – it did answer the story question – Butcher's description of Changes, Ghost Story, and Cold Days as a sort of middle-of-the-series turning-point trilogy helps explain why people struggled while waiting to get the different parts of the three books: they were examples of scene disaster occurring at a book's end, and made people want to turn pages they hadn't seen yet.)  The truth is, you *can* find places to set down a Jim Butcher book.  Just don't look for it at the end of a chapter. (Besides: you bought the book. Indulge yourself and just finish it already!)

The practice of closing the chapter on a scene disaster also draws attention to the disasterous nature of the scene end.  There's no text immediately after the chapter-ending scene-disaster text: while readers turn from the rest of the blank page, those last words echo in their minds.  It's much more effective than mere boldface text to get people to notice an idea, dwell on it a moment, and encourage them to roll it about in their heads.

I'm looking forward to Deb Chester's forthcoming The Fantasy Fiction Formula.

F&SF's Nov-Dec Issue Theme Is Offensive Topics
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Tangent recently published my review of the November/December issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction.  The issue's theme is work that risks offense.

Initially, I was offended.  But then I thought about it.  We can't exclude offense, and there are several reasons for it.  I hope the review and the issue's fiction will both stir some thought on the topic.

In the review I urge people to consider offense as a tool of writing craft and suggest that for a demonstration they read Douglas Hofstadter's "A Person Paper on Purity in Language" to see how intentional offense can be used as a deliberate and appropriate way to force readers to address a subject.  In my review, I offer to accept any public insult readers may wish to hurl at me to generate offense, just to show I'm not hesitant to accept what I urge people to experience for themselves.  So feel free to comment below.  Feel free: it's for literature.

Gruesome Death for Only $25
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Amanda Downum's fundraiser for her jewelry business Still So Strange includes some interesting potential perks – including YOUR OWN GRUESOME DEATH in a forthcoming work of fiction.  If you wondered where Elizabeth Bear got inspiration for her Shoggoths In Bloom, check out Downum's Indegogo fundraiser page and her description of her work and what she's offering to induce support for it.

If you love jewelry, or have a friend who needs a gruesome death, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

Review: Unidentified Funny Objects vol. 3
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My review is but one of three – and is the last one. This volume's hit ratio is much better than many anthologies' and I encourage people to find and read it.  The triple-review of UFO 3 is up at Tangent. I'll admit, I did it for the Tim Pratt piece, having read his Hart & Boot & Other Stories. But I read these things without prejudice;  with an appropriately hopeful skepticism, I found myself won over in story after story.

If you're interested in funny, try these shorts.
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Pictures & Prose: Two Great Tastes Taste Great Together
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I spoke to a couple of authors at Armadillocon about visual art in fiction. Angst author David J. Pedersen agreed enthusiastically that seeing a little art had engaged him in books when he was younger, and fantasy books still had art inside. My example of one that really stuck with me was Terry Brooks' original run of Wishsong of Shannara, which had a couple of black-and-white inside illustrations (thank you Darrell K. Sweet) that really made me think about the accompanying scenes and scene details, and repeatedly pulled my mind back to that part of the story. We lamented that illustrations seemed to have become less common.

The second author I spoke to was from Houston. I won't name the author without permission, but he said paying for cover art on a short story wasn't worthwhile because you'd never make it back. But he showed me his work in an online store and explained that the one with the most interesting cover outsold better stories with dull art by a ratio of 2-to-1 most months. While he was creating the covers himself – and so had little overhead – it seemed that cover art certainly affected sales, especially to the browsing shopper. I know it affects me.

At Houston Con (formerly Space City Con), I met an artist whose card I pocketed against the day I was ready to get art together for Snowflake. Seeing Sarah Clemens' art at Armadillocon (her translucent dragon wings really sold me), I'm more interested in ever in finding good art for what I'm writing. I realize that paying much for art on a short story will risk paying the visual artist more than I get in my first sale, but I assume I'll be able to keep selling a short piece over time and make up the difference. And the effect of art on novels seems hard to ignore. Have a look at the cybernetic ankle in the slipper of Marissa Meyers' novel Cinder and tell me you aren't more interested in reading cyberpunk retelling of Cinderella.

I mean, this thing is an eye-grabber. How can it not sell books? (Note to Amazon: killing this cover art in Kindle books by making it available only at thumbnail size totally works against user delight. The idea behind the book shelf is to SEE THE COVERS.)

But it seems authors don't get much say in traditionally-published works' art, and often don't bother to invest in art for self-published works. The number of self-pub covers I've seen that look like they were cribbed from a Second Life screen-grab makes me want to cry. Why go halfway?  Good cover art seems to generate its own rewards.  Why not go for it?
For my own part, I'm starting to talk to visual artists about decorating my work.

On "Till"
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I've been working on a piece in which the word 'till – or till, or 'til, you'll have to bear with me – repeatedly appears.  A friend said that a "till" was a cash drawer and that the correct abbreviation of until was 'til.  My own recollection suggested Shakespeare used the word till for until, but I was hazy whether he used an apostrophe as I assumed – thinking the word a contraction – the word now required.  So I consulted a reference.  Imagine my surprise when I learned that the apostrophe was a late addition to the old word till:

"Interestingly, while it is commonly assumed that till is an abbreviated form of until (the spellings 'till and 'til reflect this), till is in fact the earlier form. Until appears to have been formed by the addition of Old Norse und (‘as far as’) several hundred years after the date of the first records for till." New Oxford American Dictionary 3rd Ed.

So while it's possible to properly call a cash drawer a "till", the first definition of "till" seems to be "a less formal way of saying until" and the more archaic word for it, as well.

So now I know.

Till later.

Just Read A New Dresden Files Novel (Not Skin Game – a NEW one!)
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Usually when I dream it's weird and hard to remember the more fully awake I get.  I have a suspicion that this is because my dreams are usually so weird – and the chains of causation so subtle and convoluted and dependent on dream-state logic – that they relate to so little to anything in the waking world that no linkages ever form between anything in my dreams and anything I'd see while awake. But, not last night.

When I woke I was reading a Dresden Files book I had trouble putting down.  (See, this dream incorporated elements of reality – surely why it's easier to remember.)  I realized my confusion toward the end resulted from the inclusion at the end of a "Coming Soon" teaser for a future book aimed at children (see? Dreamland.) so I backtracked to re-read the end to make sure I got it.

That's why I know who collected Lasciel's coin and how – and how I felt the thrill of discovering who the subtle Denarian is who's been hiding in plain sight all along.  Now that I'm fully awake, I can recognize elements of The Princess Bride and Highlander in the new volume.  Sadly, I never closed the book in the dream to read the title, so I'm in no position to recognize it when it's published until I actually start reading it.  (Ha!)

So when you read it, lemme know 'cause I'm dying to discuss it with someone who won't bitch about the spoilers :-) 

Whee!
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When short story author Austin Malone told me about a market for subverted fairy tales, I immediately realized that the character I most regretted not being able to do more with in my epic WIP Snowflake was The Tooth Fairy.  A short was the perfect place to do indulge.  I had no idea how giggly I'd find myself after writing a scene of The Tooth Fairy vs. The Sock Monster.  Too much fun.
There oughta be a law.
So, now I'm putting finishing touches on "That Second Tooth".  I expect it to be done soon.  Then, I set about finding it a home :-)

Ilona Andrews Magic Breaks ARC Giveaway
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While looking for the release date of Ilona Andrews' series-ending Kate Daniels novel Magic Breaks, I discovered an ARC giveaway.  The ARC giveaway seeks to induce persons such as yourself to promote Ilona Andrews and Magic Breaks by following them on Twitter and Facebook and blogging about them, which is sort of wasted effort here because I've already been blogging about their work and following their social media presence.

You probably want to read Magic Breaks for the same reason I do: it's the conclusion of a series that's had badassed babes and delightful Happy Endings consistently for six books, and you want more of the same.  I'm looking forward to it :-)
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New Online Series from Ilona Andews
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Sequel to the authors' Clean Sweep (previously cheered here), Ilona Andrews' new collection is rolling out under the title Sweep In Peace.
If you like that, you'll love their Kate Daniels series that by the end of June will include its seventh volume, Magic Breaks.
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