Monday, May 29, 2006

The Homepage Update That Almost Never Happened

I am A.R.Yngve's justified anger.

Recently I bought a new laptop PC. My trusty-but-old Toshiba still worked. I needed something with more juice, though.

So I went to the big Scandinavian retailer ELKJØP, and bought a Fujitsu-Siemens -- with an extra memory chip installed by the retailer. It cost me less than two thousand dollars, and I thought I'd made a bargain.

But lo and behold, my spiffy new laptop PC crashed EVERY DAY -- in fact, much more than my old Toshiba ever did -- very often while I was writing. I delivered the Fujitsu-Siemens back to ELKJØP, and the repair guy said he'd look at it. No result, though.

I really needed to use the machine, so I took it back. It just kept crashing. It's a terrible feeling, fearing that your last few hours of work might vaporize at any moment.

Luckily I know people who know computers, so they helped me run a hardware check on the new laptop.

Turned out the hardware was severely defective: it had to be replaced. Now, I was hoping this should be a quick and easy process. I even brought a photograph of the hardware-error report to the shop. Surely the error lay in the "booster" chip that the personnel at ELKJØP had installed in my new Fujitsu-Siemens?

Well... the day after I had delivered the faulty laptop to the repair guy, I went back to ELKJØP. The repair guy had left early. The girl at the counter said the man had to contact Fujitsu-Siemens for help, and my laptop might take longer to fix than expected.

I immediately thought: That sounds like a "cover-your-ass" move.

Guess what was on that PC? All my novels, finished and in progress.

Am I pissed off? Is the Pope Catholic? If I hadn't already stored a backup of all those manuscripts, I might have gone postal and sued ELKJØP.

But -- what stroke of luck! -- I hadn't sold my trusty old Toshiba yet.

So I dug it out, and continued to write. And I updated my homepage, with a new chapter of ALIEN LAND (the sequel to ALIEN BEACH) and a new chapter of novel-in-progress THE TALE OF THE SOLDIESSE.

I'm now waiting for my crashes-every-day Fujitsu-Siemens laptop PC to return, hopefully with the manuscript files intact. And I will never, ever buy anything from ELKJØP again.

I am A.R.Yngve's smirking revenge.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Why Call It "Homepage" Update, And Not "Homesite" Update?

This week's homepage update features another chapter in the preview of my Military SF novel "The Tale of the Soldiesse"... and a re-release of ALIEN LAND, the sequel to ALIEN BEACH.

ALIEN LAND first appeared as a web-serial in 2001
(on another URL), but I wasn't happy with it -- the book got a little truncated, and other things distracted me from fixing it. (Weren't we all "distracted by other things" in 2001?)

This new serial will, hopefully, fix the flaws of the first ALIEN LAND version, and provide a proper conclusion to ALIEN BEACH.

Oh, and because I got sick with a cold,
I'll have to wait a week or two with another web-serial... the long-awaited sequel to DARC AGES. A complete new DARC AGES novel exists in written form, and will be serialized soon!

(I wrote it in one weekend, in an Indian speed-writing contest... but that's another story.)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

DARC AGES Illustrated Edition

Just for fun, I've compiled an illustrated chapbook edition of DARC AGES, featuring 35 of the illustrations from the original Web-serial.

This 100,000-word illustrated paperback is only available from CafePress
, and is quite expensive -- so I guess it's for collectors only.

Those of you who (like myself) don't want to pay 30 bucks for a book can read the illustrated Web edition for free. (Note however, that the Web edition contains some typos which I fixed for the paperback.)

As for the novel itself -- it's rather on the long side, and an early effort, but it works. People who read the Web edition have been asking for a sequel, and this is in the works.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

#¤#¤½*&*!! (Translated: "**** Microsoft Word!!")

I recently bought a new PC, which solved many of my old PC problems... and also gave me a whole bunch of new PC problems.

For instance: now that I use "latest" version of Microsoft Word, instead of "old-fashioned" WordPad, I can no longer just cut-and-paste sample texts into my Webpage. Because the text will still contain bits of text-formatting from Word, and that will screw up the text on the webpage. (Quotation-marks turn into question-marks, etc.)

When you write on a computer, consider using WordPad instead of Word. Sure, WordPad won't help you with the spellchecking... but at least it won't SCREW UP THE FORMATTING MORE!!

Computers. Have they REALLY made writing any easier? I know people who still write stories by hand! Discuss.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Who Says Publishing Is Fair?

So, once you have your mansucript done, revised, proofed, ready for publication... what do you do?

You send away your manuscript to a Big Publisher, and think it will succeed or fail on its own merits.


Getting published by a large publisher, unless your name is already well-known, is a completely randomized process. Michael Allen reveals how manuscripts are REALLY selected (or not), in his tell-all book On the Survival of Rats in the Slush Pile.

It's recommended reading for writers. Honestly, I didn't think the state of Big Corporate Publishing was THIS bad -- until I read Allen's book. I learned several useful lessons:

1. "Nobody knows anything." Modern Big Publishing is a complete lottery, and the odds are stacked against writers.

2. The best way to keep a cool head is to write what YOU enjoy writing, and not write for money/fame. (Or write for your friends and family.)

3. Ignore Big Publishers. No, really. S****'em. Find a small publisher that's willing to publish your work at a low cost (read: low financial risk) and nurture your talent over time.

(If, against near-impossible odds, you SHOULD get a deal with a Big Publisher, you are s****d. Because the Big Publisher will give you one chance to sell humongously well with your first published novel... and if you don't, they'll toss you aside like a used Kleenex. You don't get to hear about this a lot, because people tend to ignore all the writers who bombed, and focus on the spectacular successes.)

Don't Just Sit There And Update Your Homepage! Do Nothing!

My homepage has been semi-updated with the first half of my "Precinct 20" crime/horror story "The Man Who Fell Out."

The second part of the story will be added in the next update, due to time constraints. It was originally written in Swedish for a small-press horror anthology, and I'm translating it into English for the homepage.

I'll admit: "The Man Who Fell Out" has a problem -- perhaps typical of the horror genre, or typical of LAZY WRITING -- we never get to see "the villain/monster". There is some "Unseen Menace" and its henchmen ("Are you a henchman?"--"No, I only go as far as lackey.";-))... and the heroes never get to see them. The henchmen always lurk beyond the next corner, the Unseen Menace is by its nature invisible.

Now, that would not work in a regular mystery/detective story, where the reader expects to at least SEE the culprit in the end. In horror, you can get away with NEVER showing the "culprit", the "bogeyman". So when you mix the two genres, as in "The Man Who Fell Out", you risk getting an awkward reader reaction: "Ehh... what is this supposed to be?"

But I like to mix genres, to play a little (or a lot) with genre expectations. That's why I'd be a lousy romance writer. Romance readers will cry bloody murder if the novel doesn't end EXACTLY AS THEY EXPECTED FROM PAGE 1.

"Precinct 20" is my little playground/mad-scientist's laboratory, where I can have murder mysteries end usolved, where the detective can accuse a nonhuman entity of drug-dealing, where there are no neat resolutions. I don't expect a lot of readers to enjoy this, but I'm having fun.

UPDATE: The story is now updated and complete.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Fanfiction Is Not The Straight And Narrow Path

Again: As a writer, I'm opposed to fanfiction.

But I'll let Robin Hobb explain exactly how, and in how many ways, fanfiction is wrong.

I must emphasize Hobb's argument that Fanfiction is NOT a good way for people to learn to be writers:

"Fan fiction is a good way to avoid learning how to be a writer. Fan fiction allows the writer to pretend to be creating a story, while using someone else’s world, characters, and plot. Coloring Barbie’s hair green in a coloring book is not a great act of creativity. Neither is putting lipstick on Ken. Fan fiction does exactly those kinds of things."
-Robin Hobb, "The Fan Fiction Rant"

Speculation: To become an original writer, perhaps first you need to develop a sense of who you are. In other words, you need to learn where "you" is located in the world.

The act of writing, like all personal expression, CAN help you find out "who you are"... but ONLY if you try to explore own experiences, your own memories, your own senses.

To ape other people's writings will NOT do that for you -- in fact, it may trap your mind in a mental cocoon and prevent it from developing further.

But why listen to me, or to Robin Hobb? Listen to the large community of fanfiction fans instead: Fanfic - a force of nature.

Monday, May 01, 2006

John Scalzi Gives Advice To Teenage Writers

As you may have heard, a teenage writer by the name Christopher Paolini has had huge success with his ERAGON book series. This sort of thing doesn't happen often.

Teenage prodigies are still rare in book-writing. Why is that? John Scalzi explains in "10 Things Teenage Writers Should Know About Writing."