James Dashner, author of The 13th Reality: The Journal of Curious Tales (reviewed, interestingly enough, just yesterday by Fantasy Debut), is living the dream. Or, he "likely" will be:
James Dashner is a number cruncher by day and an architect of children's fantasy novels by night.
This West Jordan accountant/author has battled for years between his creative right brain and his logical left in deciding which career path to follow.
Now, with a national book contract in hand, Dashner says he likely will quit his budgeting job...and choose the right - brain.
It's encouraging to see someone "making it" after reading this piece of somber news.
I can relate to the left/right brain allusion more than others perhaps: I'm a software engineer by day trying to fulfill the creative end at nights and in my free time (I work with accountants, too, but that's another story). Dashner is, without a doubt, ahead of my game: He's under contract for a "five book series" from Shadow Mountain Publishing, but has a handful of books to his name already. Congrats go to James not only for showing some longevity but also for taking the plunge and saying good-bye to the stability of his accounting job for the potential uncertainties of life as a writer.
You often hear straight from the horse's mouth (successful authors, that is) not to quit your day job until your writing makes up a certain percentage of your current income. That percentage is without a doubt a personal threshold--we all grow accustomed to a certain lifestyle and have different tolerances for sacrifice. It also depends on if you are the sole money-maker in your household or not, how many dependents you have, etc.
We still want to achieve our writing goals, though, and so it becomes an issue of balance. Dashner understood this balance. He worked his day job while writing in his free time for eight years. Only with the security of a multi-book deal in hand did he jettison the day job to focus on his writing full-time.
Good luck to him. I hope I get there someday, too.
Quitting his day job - Salt Lake Tribune
As reported here, Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, has passed away at age 69.
The man's contributions to my own interest in fantasy literature are difficult to describe. Though it's been years since I've played, D&D coupled with some specific fantasy books really formed the foundation for my interest in the genre. His contributions will be missed.
2008-03-05 - Update: Go here for a more thoughtful remembrance than I could ever provide.
2008-03-12 - Update:
I continue to come across interesting stories and views on the death of the Dungeon Master. Thought I would share some of them along with some highlights:
"I now know the reasons why I needed to escape into Dungeons & Dragons. I haven't played for decades, but my lingering attraction to these fantasy realms leaves me dissatisfied with reality. Simple pursuits - folding laundry, mowing the lawn, "Sopranos" reruns - seem dull by comparison to the exploits of that parallel me in a faraway land."
"Dungeons & Dragons was a brilliant pastiche, mashing together tabletop war games, the Conan-the-Barbarian tales of Robert E. Howard and a magic trick from the fantasy writer Jack Vance with a dash of Bulfinch’s mythology, a bit of the Bible and a heaping helping of J. R. R. Tolkien."
*** The whole scoop on the game and history of Dungeons and Dragons. Highly recommended reading.
What do writers of f/sf read?
It's not surprising to me that they sometimes read out of their field:
- Tim Powers (The Anubis Gates and The Skies Discrowned) recommends Robert Heinlein's 1941 short story, "By His Bootstraps": "I couldn't have written 'The Anubis Gates' if I hadn't read this. Anyone who has written a time travel story in the past 50 years could say the same."
- Rebecca Moesta (Young Jedi Knights Series) chooses Isaac Asimov's 1951 short story, "The Fun They Had": "It was cautionary for me. I highly recommend it."
- Anne McCaffrey (Pern Series) looks ahead to new author Andrea Kail's short story, 'The Sun God At Dawn, Rising from a Lotus Blossom" in the anthology L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, Volume XIII: "The story is a fascinating glimpse of a reborn young King Tut and his emotional development as he comes to realize his plight as a political pawn."
I say "not surprising" because I read out of the fantasy field a bit myself: Patrick O'Brian, C.S. Forester, Bernard Cornwell, Raymond Chandler, Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft (the latter two sort of overlap into fantasy, but I'm considering them more of the horror vein for my purposes here).
Why is it a good thing to read outside your field as a writer?
Because you want to see how other writers use their tools. You want to study their style, see how they develop their characters, learn how they structure their story. If you read O'Brian, you're looking at the manner in which he represents setting--the authenticity of the time period is crucial to transporting the reader to the story's world. For Cornwell, more of the same, but also how he tempers suspense and action, how he raises the reader's interest and holds it through one harrowing experience after another. King--how he creates undeniably believable characters that suck you in from the first moment you encounter them.
I know you have your own favorite authors outside of the field in which you've chosen to write. Make sure you're studying their work as much as you're enjoying it.
Galaxy Press :: Top Speculative Fiction Writers Pick Favorite Stories
This is pretty cool. It's a compilation of book covers released in 2007 that have been "seen by Locus Online", which I guess means they reviewed the titles or some such thing.
They list the authors and artists along with links to Amazon if you wish to buy the book (which obviously helps Locus Online keep doing what they're doing, so go buy something).
Here's a few of my favorites:
I don't think I have a problem with using clichés in my own writing, mostly because such phrases as "easy as pie" don't usually fit within the context of my fantasy world. Perhaps in dialog, where really anything goes (with exceptions, of course), but not in the text in general.
Despite the need to avoid clichés, the author of the post suggests letting "the clichés come", at least at first. Trying to avoid them is a potential roadblock, and you don't want any impediments keeping you from making progress.
However, once you've got that first draft completed, "equip yourself with the right armory, and snipe at them clichés one by one!" I'm not sure what "snipe at them" means, but I get the gist of it: get rid of them!
Why Cutting Clichés From Your Copy is as Easy as Pie | Copyblogger