An author wrote a beautiful tribute to his late dog disguised as writing advice

I've known Literary Agent/author Eric Smith as an editor and friend for about a decade now; I even wrote a review of his most recent novel, the delightful Don't Read the Comments, right here on BoingBoing.

Sadly, Smith recently had to put down his beloved corgi, Augie, after five and a half sweet years together. And while losing a dog is always hard, Smith penned a beautiful tribute to his short-legged companion — in the form of writing advice. It begins thus:

When it comes to crafting the perfect story, advice tends to be fairly subjective. What might work for some writers, won’t necessarily work for others.

But these specific rules… they worked for me.

Let’s discuss.

First and foremost, at the very start of your story, you want to make the introduction of your character memorable. After-all, the beginning sets the tone for the entire narrative. Readers are going to remember two major things when they walk away. The beginning and the end. And we’ll revisit this idea later.

Basically, you should find a way to surprise us.

Yes, that video is part of it. So you get the idea. It continues like that, all the way through the end of the storytelling process. The final result is not only a clear and succinct collection of good advice for good storytelling, but also an absolutely tear-jerking tribute to who was clearly a very sweet pup who lived a life full of love.

If you love dogs, or storytelling, or crying, or any combination thereof, I suggest you read it. Read the rest

"Fantasy Magazine" returns after nearly a decade away

Acclaimed sci-fi/fantasy publisher John Joseph Adams has announced the return of Fantasy Magazine, after being shuttered for nearly a decade. Here's the official history, according to the press release:

Fantasy Magazine was originally launched in 2005, published by Sean Wallace and edited by a team of Wallace and Paul Tremblay. It started as a print magazine before shifting to digital-only publication in 2007. That shift coincided with an editorial change: Paul Tremblay stepped down and was replaced by Cat Rambo, with Wallace continuing to serve as publisher and co-editor. Rambo and Wallace remained as joint editors of Fantasy until March 2011 when they both stepped down as editors and were replaced by John Joseph Adams. Adams edited Fantasy for the rest of 2011. Beginning in January 2012, Adams took over as publisher of Fantasy and its sister-magazine, Lightspeed (which he was also already editor of), and merged the two magazines together under the single title of Lightspeed. At that time, Fantasy, as an ongoing publication, went on indefinite hiatus, though it reappeared for single special issues in 2014, 2015, and 2016. The November 2020 issue will be the first new Fantasy issue in four years.

Lightspeed and Nightmare will continue to operate as usual; Lightspeed will still also publish fantasy fiction as well as SF at the same schedule it does currently, and likewise Nightmare will still publish dark fantasy as well as horror.

This new iteration of Fantasy will be edited by Arley Sorg and Christie Yant, with Adams serving as publisher for the entire line, which will now be known as Adamant Press line (not to be confused with Adam and the Ants). Read the rest

Raymond Chandler is the once and future king of opening paragraphs

Somewhere between discovering The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Hellblazer, I fell deeply into love with early-to-mid 20th-century detective fiction. It was a world of smart men who mean well, knife-sharp banter, romance, the end of ropes and of, so much violence. I loved Dashiell Hammett, Jim Thompson, and Patricia Highsmith. But the writer that kept me up late at night, without fail, has always been Raymond Chandler.

Chandler had a knack for getting his hooks into his readers, from the get-go of page one. Through hard work, talent and, no small amount of booze, he managed to find the perfect balance of descriptive prose, heartache, and humor. I’m certainly not the only reader out there to feel this way about Chandler’s work. A while back, I happened upon an outstanding, ordered list of Chandler’s best opening hooks, compiled by Dwyer Murphy, over at Crime Reads. My all-time favorite? This chunk of Chandler’s Red Wind (which originally appeared in the Saturday Evening Post before being collected into a book of short stories with the same name).

From Red Wind:

There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.

Read the rest

A darn good 25-cent mechanical pencil

Carla ordered these cheap Bic mechanical pencils. I tried one out and I actually like it a lot. The lead diameter is 0.9 mm and it has a number 2 lead inside. It also contains one extra lead in the barrel. A 24-pack sells for about $.25 a pencil. They are supposed to be disposable, but why not buy a bunch of 9 mm lead for cheap and keep using the pencil? You can even get colored leads! Read the rest

This deck of cards will help you to get to know yourself better

Know Yourself is a set of 60 cards to prompt you to examine your beliefs. Example card: “List five things that are important to you in your life. How much of your time do you give to each of these?” The back of each card offers advice to make sure you answer the questions in a useful way. You can use their cards on your own or with another person you feel close to. Be prepared to surprise yourself. These could be good prompts for people interested in keeping a journal or writing a memoir. Read the rest

Passport and Nobels

My life-long work of performance art is to somehow maintain my original passport: notwithstanding the life and opportunities of a techno-nomad.

Writer asks for an exclusive trademark on the use of the word "dark" in "Series of fiction works, namely, novels and books"

Christine Feehan is the author of several bestselling series, including one simply called "Dark" -- in her trademark application with the USPTO, she has applied for the exclusive right to use the word "Dark" (in "standard characters without claim to any particular font style, size, or color") in "Series of fiction works, namely, novels and books." Read the rest

Writer David Moldawer's favorite tools

My guest this week on the Cool Tools show is David Moldawer. David is a Brooklyn-based writer and book collaborator who spent more than a decade as an acquiring editor in New York City publishing. He was an editor on a number of books I've written. He also writes a weekly newsletter for nonfiction authors and experts who aspire to be authors called The Maven Game.

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Raw transcript excerpts:

Focusmate Focusmate has been transformative for me over the last few months. It’s very simple. It pairs you with a random person via webcam and you work together for 50 minutes at a time. So it’s like having a virtual coworking partner. So what happens is you have a calendar and you pick a slot. Let’s say I want to work at 9:00 AM — it’ll say “You’re working with John or Bill or Melinda at 9:00 AM,” and at that time I click start and it brings up a typical webcam, video-chat-kind-of window, and the other person’s there sitting at a desk and I’ll say “Hi, what are you working on?” They’ll say, “Oh I’m grading something because I’m a teacher.” And I’ll say, “Okay great. I’m doing some editing because I’m a book collaborator,” and that’s it. And then we’ll just sit there and work with the webcam going. Nobody really watches each other. Read the rest

Cormac McCarthy on how to write a scientific (or any kind of) paper

For twenty years, novelist Cormac McCarthy (The Road, No Country for Old Men) has been an unofficial "editor-at-large" for the Sante Fe Institute, where he is a trustee. McCarthy has helped numerous scientists improve the writing in their technical papers about theoretical physics, complex systems, biology, and the like. In the new issue of Nature, theoretical biologist Van Savage and evolutionary biologist Pamela Yeh present a distillation of McCarthy's advice on "how to write a great scientific paper." I think the suggestions are applicable to any kind of non-fiction writing. Here are a few of the tips, from Nature:

• Use minimalism to achieve clarity. While you are writing, ask yourself: is it possible to preserve my original message without that punctuation mark, that word, that sentence, that paragraph or that section? Remove extra words or commas whenever you can.

• Decide on your paper’s theme and two or three points you want every reader to remember. This theme and these points form the single thread that runs through your piece. The words, sentences, paragraphs and sections are the needlework that holds it together. If something isn’t needed to help the reader to understand the main theme, omit it.

• Keep sentences short, simply constructed and direct. Concise, clear sentences work well for scientific explanations. Minimize clauses, compound sentences and transition words — such as ‘however’ or ‘thus’ — so that the reader can focus on the main message.

• Don’t over-elaborate. Only use an adjective if it’s relevant. Your paper is not a dialogue with the readers’ potential questions, so don’t go overboard anticipating them.

Read the rest

Gollancz announces a £4,000 prize for sf writing by people of color

Gollancz, a venerable British science fiction publisher (now a division of Hachette) has announced its BAME SFF Award, with a top prize of £4,000 for science fiction written by over-18 BAME ("Black, Asian, minority ethnic) writers. Read the rest

Christopher Brown talking legal thrillers, dystopia, and science fiction

Christopher Brown (previously) is the guest on this week's Agony Column podcast with Rick Kleffel (MP3) (previously), discussing his outstanding legal thriller/sf climate change dystopia Rule of Capture. Read the rest

Come see me in Toronto and Maine!

I'm in the midst of couple of weeks' worth of lectures, public events and teaching, and you can catch me in Toronto (for Seeding Utopias and Resisting Dystopias and 6 Degrees); Newry, ME (Maine Library Association) and Portland, ME (in conversation with James Patrick Kelly). Read the rest

Lovely lokta notecards

I like to write letters. Theselokta notecards are my favorite.

I usually keep a few styles of lokta paper notecards around. The butterflies are particularly lovely and encourage me to find green ink.

Usually, I write with Noodler's Heart of Darkness, and ink that is designed to stand the test of time. Lokta paper is known for its durability and is resistant to mold, rot and bugs. The paper has a wonderful texture and simply looks beautiful, showing the pulped fibers it is made of.

There are claims in the packaging of how eco-friendly, local economy-friendly and indigenous peoples-friendly the makers of this paper are. These are all great things.

Writing on this paper takes a Medium nib or a very, very careful hand with a Fine and you must use ink that will flow. The paper accepts the ink, does not feather very much but even quick-drying ink will take a moment or two.

Beware the smudge!

The messages you send to loved ones will last forever on notecards that look lovely enough to keep!

Now you have to write things that are worth standing the test of time. It is fun tho, I treat writing letters on these a lot like I do taking photos with 120 roll film, every shot costs a few dollars, make it worthwhile!

I am sure folks toss my works of art into the trash.

Nepal Greeting Card and Envelope Set: Butterfly Notecards, Handmade Lokta Paper via Amazon Read the rest

The Microwriter, a tiny chording word processor from 1984

Photo by Bill Buxton of the Microwriter

Back in the 80s, the inventor Cy Enfield created this fascinating device -- a six-button "Microwriter" where you'd chord combos of buttons to produce the entire alphabet, letting you jot down notes on the go.

Microsoft's Bill Buxton calls it "the world’s first portable digital word processor" (the front-page photo for this post is from Buxton's hardware collection) and Open Culture wrote a terrific piece about the Microwriter a few years ago, citing from a 1984 interview Enfield did with NPR, discussing his "aha" moment:

“It occurred to me that ... it would be possible to combine a set of signals from separate keys, and therefore you could reduce the total number of keys. But, of course, this involved the learning of chords… difficult to memorize… But how do you make these chords memorable? And, one day, staring at a sheet of paper on which I was drawing a set of five keys in sort of the arch formed by the finger ends, it occurred to me, ah! if I press the thumb key, and the index finger key, anybody can do this just listening now, press your thumb key and your index finger down and you’ll see that a vertical line joins those two finger ends, a short vertical line. There is an equivalence between that short vertical line and one letter of the alphabet. It’s the letter “I.”

Buxton's site has some scans of the gorgeous user's manual, including this one:

There are chording keyboards these days, most notably the Twiddler, and stenography tech. Read the rest

The Moonman clear acrylic demonstrator looks good and writes well

This Moonman clear demonstrator is my showy fountain pen with a lot of crazy colored ink of choice.

A few years back I bought a TWBSI Eco. I enjoyed using it and it became my black/red ink pen of choice. A color I used to use a lot of. I wanted another pen to fill up with some of the neat colors I've acquired over the last few years. The Moonman C1 is a great choice.

The tank is huge and it looks really cool when filled with a teal or something crazy like Noodler's Rome Burning. I also enjoy that I can fill the huge tank and write all day without fear of running out.

I enjoy living with out wonder as to ink level. My checking my beloved DuoFold involved inky fingertips.

The fine nib writes like a fine nib and flows ink pretty well. The Rome Burning is pretty soupy and can gum things up. I ran about 1/3rd a tank of it thru the pen and I didn not have a problem. You can unscrew the nib so I am going to assume there are lots of medium, bent and other nibs available. It looks an awful lot like the nib on my TWBSI, but I do not have the pen handy to check.

Moonman C1 Fountain Pen, Transparent Clear Acrylic Demonstrator, Fine Nib Gift Writing Pen Case Set via Amazon Read the rest

This affordable Kaweco fountain pen is a pleasure to use

I picked up one of these Kaweco Sport fountain pens the other day...

I am unclear what is 'sport' about this pen, but it is a classic. The barrel is a bulbous octagonal design, something like a Rotring pencil that needs a diet. This shape feels wonderful in my hands. The plastic is lightweight and the nib puts down ink.

I bought a converter because I hate using cartridges, however the blue cart that came with the pen is just fine. I will prefer using this with Noodler's Ink however, I am an ink snob.

I tested a medium nib but was sent out the door of the shop with a fine. I will be swapping it, as the paper I am most enjoying these days really needs the broader nib. I do believe their fine is a fine and their medium a medium.

I still enjoying writing letters to folks I like and dropping them in the mail. I think it freaks people the fuck out.

Kaweco Sport Classic Fountain Pen Black M (Medium Nib) via Amazon Read the rest

Taika Waititi's got some great advice for writers and film directors

If you're a Taika Waititi fan, like I am, it's been one hell of a year. The What We Do in the Shadows TV series was absolutely brilliant. Last week, it was announced that he'd be directing the fourth Thor movie and, earlier today, the first trailer for Jojo Rabbit dropped. He's a writing and directing machine! If you've ever wondered what Waititi's creative process is like, then you'll want to dig into the insight offered up in this interview with the good folks at BAFTA.

My biggest takeaway: Keep writing no matter what. Force yourself to write and don't be afraid of blank pages. It's a grind, but no matter what you're scribbling about, you'll get there in the end.

Image via Flickr, courtesy of Activités culturelles UdeM Read the rest

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