Futurescapes Catch-up

Friends, my brain is still oozing from the majesty and magic that was Futurescapes 2018. Accordingly, I’m taking a minute to check in here before running off to do all of the things that I need to do to get caught back up. Thanks for your patience while I was out of town.

First of all, the Sundance Resort was lovely. I’ve got tons of pictures. I’ve also got an official Instagram now, where you can see some of those pictures and keep up with my writing if that’s your poison. I’ve put a couple of favorites at the end of this post.

I met so many cool people who were all really supportive. I also got a huge amount of feedback on the novella. I’m hoping to get that groomed up by July in time for some important submissions windows to open. Obviously getting Daughter of Madness out takes priority, there, but the worst of that should be over by the end of June so the timeline works out perfectly.

I also took a lot of notes for some of the lectures and panels I got to attend, which were all incredibly useful, and some of those I tweeted. All of it is tagged with the #futurescapes18 hashtag, so you should be able to find them.

And here, at last, your promised photos! I probably won’t make another post this week, since I’m behind on edits and have some other deadlines to meet, but I will be back next week!

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Preorders, sales, promotional graphics, oh my!

You may wonder what in the world I have been up to lately, and let me say – a lot. April is a rollercoaster and I’m not strapped in. Please expect me to be absolutely mad over here.

Currently, I’m preparing to leave for Salt Lake City (or rather, its environs) where I am attending a writing workshop called Futurescapes. It’s looks to be an amazing experience, and I’m so excited to tell you about it later if I survive the next few weeks.

That said, I have some lovely things to share with you if you haven’t already seen them on my Twitter, Tumblr, etc.

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First, Daughter of Madness is up for preorder! I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago but I was not perhaps exuberant enough. Specifically, the ebook is what is up for preorder. The print book will be releasing at the same time, but you will have to wait until June 2nd to get your copy.

Speaking of June 2nd, you can get an ebook of Mother of Creation anytime before that date! I’m hoping to have it for $1.99 soon but there has been a technical glitch at Amazon so I will do a special post to update you on when that is resolved. I made a cool graphic to share to folks….someday…..

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I’ll also be doing some blog tours coming up. I will crosspost those here and mostly put a hold on original content for The Bramble until those are finalized. But we still have a couple of weeks until then, as the beginning of the tour is May 7th.


Send me kind thoughts, readers, and let’s power through!

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Maintaining mystery

Recently, I was listening to this podcast review of Annihilation as a movie adaptation, reviewed on this site here, and I realized just what bugged me about the movie the most. While I reviewed Annihilation based off of its feminist leanings and how that settled for me, and have recently seen Jessica Jones Season Two and faulted it for similar, that’s not actually why the movie or show, respectively, failed to grip me in either case. Sure, if those inconsistencies could have been resolved I would have been less disappointed. But I was emotionally less than invested from the beginning. The reason, I realized listening to that podcast episode, was because the writing itself lacked something essential.

It lacked a sense of tension, tension resulting from mystery.

I think this is a particular problem in genres which trade on suspense, but it can be a problem for all stories. Annihilation is a story that is at least playing heavily in the horror sandbox. Jessica Jones mixes horror elements into a detective mystery – mystery or thrillers being horror’s close cousins. Another popular sequel series which came out last October, Stranger Things, also fell a little bit flat with viewers for, I believe, similar reasons, and dwells squarely in the horror and supernatural action camp. What made the book Annihilation and the first seasons of these other two stories work so well was the tension that kept you engaged, and that tension was reliant upon mystery.

Mystery in a story comes from a lack of knowledge, or, more specifically, from the slow release of knowledge like breadcrumbs. Too much knowledge out the gate can feel like force feeding. This was the case for me with Annihilation the movie, where many of the major questions in the book are answered in the first five minutes of the movie. We know immediately that Area X is likely caused by aliens – the opening scene with the meteor and the lighthouse leaves little question of that – and the main character will return from her journey to investigate that phenomenon. She is, after all, being interviewed in the first scene where we meet her, beat up but still recognizably her. We see the ending before the story even begins, and both of the largest existential questions we could have been left with (why is this happening, and will she survive) are answered. Rarely do those sorts of story framing devices work for me, though rarely is not never – I have seen it done well, and usually it is because there is another more emotionally important question introduced to replace the one (has the narrator survived) that is being eliminated. There are more ways to lose yourself than to die.

The reverse of this, of course, is when you put too information little in your story. Information can be an anchor, and it’s important to keep your reader or watcher oriented. So maintaining suspension is not about giving no information, but delivering the pieces of the story slowly. It’s like getting a little bit of food when you want a feast, exquisitely spiced but only enough to make you more ravenous. If you can keep up that trail of breadcrumbs at the right intervals, you maintain tension throughout. If the protagonist can only succeed when they have all of the information and failure becomes more assured the longer it takes for them to figure it out, you have the perfect recipe. But it requires enough of a trickle of new knowledge to keep the reader oriented and engaged throughout, so it’s a fine line to walk.

Annihilation gave too much information upfront, but other stories give too little. Often this is a sign of bad writing – inconsistent characters and deus ex machina plot twists can leave a reader or watcher cold. Internal consistency is just as important when slowly revealing information, because something that contradicts too sharply with everything that you’ve learned before is a sure-fire way to throw you out of the story. In short, in order to do quality reveals you already have to have a good idea of the rules and the backstory as a writer. This requires a lot of pre-writing, including research that may never make it into your story at all.

It’s a lot of work, but tension is the heartblood of any story. It pays to get it right.

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