The Rabbit Hole 4?

“Remember how I found you there
Alone in your electric chair
I told you dirty jokes until you smiled
You were lonely for a man
I said take me as I am
‘Cause you might enjoy some madness for a while”

– Billy Joel

It occurred to me that times and people change. In dictionaries of the late 1800s, “alienation” was defined as a mental affliction. Today, it is normal. What if any madness that does not prevent reproduction is actually a mental set and behavioral pattern that evolved because it enabled humans to survive? Maybe, when conditions require madness, we humans rise to the occasion.

Imagine, if you will, an anthology of stories about different madnesses wherein the insanity enabeled people to survive. Obvious plots include extreme sacrifice – deliberately dying to save others or murder of innocents to save other innocents, for example. But the premise is that insane behavior can be shown to benefit survival of our species. A deadly airborne virus that dies in the tar-laden lungs of heavy smokers comes to mind. Or, invasion of an alien race that eats only the brains of non-alcohoics.

Of course, it could be simply stories about those who succeed where others fail because they try what none of us sane folk would think of. I’m sensing a fun anthology here. And, a social service. We’ll be saying that crazy people can be necessary. “I know he’s crazy. But, who else would try it?”

Anybody interested? Tom Wolosz has offered to put together Volume Four of The Rabbit Hole. He asked for theme suggestions and this is one. What do you think of a new volume?

blogging, book promotion, marketing, Uncategorized

I Don’t Know Nuttin’

A writer’s confession

by Mike Van Horn

I don’t know what genre my stories fit into. Yeah, it’s science fiction. Not hard sci-fi, since my heroine flies off to other stars. I know what it’s not. Not dreary dystopian, not vicious alien invaders, not far fuzzy future. 

But what IS my genre? Maybe friendly first contact with personal journey? But try to find that in the Amazon categories. 

Someone called my stories space opera. But there’s not even a fat lady to sing at the end. 

I also don’t know who my target readers are. As I see it, my target readers are people who like my stories. But who are they? How do we even find out? It’s not like I’m writing romance or YA or steampunk or zombies, which all have definable audiences. 

When I look at my Amazon reviews, they seem quite diverse: women and men, American and European. Amazon gives us no info on who buys our books. I’d love to interview my readers to see who they are.

I don’t know what the market is demanding. All the gurus say, scan the other books in your genre and see what’s selling the most, then write that. Ugh. First of all, there are so many sci fi books out there that I think are just terrible, or full of clichés. Of no interest to me at all. 

Secondly, I don’t see many others that are “friendly first contact.” When one woman learned I was writing about friendly aliens who came as tourists and traders, she said, “That’s unusual.” I responded, “That’s why I’m writing it.” 

Thirdly, I write what turns me on. For a long time I’ve been annoyed by the hostile alien invasion trope, and I wanted to write something different. I did no market research on the demand for this topic.

I don’t plan out my stories ahead of time. What I’m writing now started out as a short story, then it metastasized into a trilogy. And now I’m writing Book 4 of the trilogy. And in Book 4, I have no idea what’s going to happen to my heroine at the end. I’m waiting for her to tell me. 

I don’t spend all my time reading other people’s stories, as gurus insist we should. Where would I get the time to do that? Most of my reading is non-fiction. And the novels I’m drawn to are often from years ago. 

I don’t know where my story came from. Interviewers ask, “Where’d you get the idea for your book?” My answer, “I don’t remember.” “Well, how come you have a woman as your MC?” “I dunno. She just popped up in my mind, like my anima or muse.”

I’m doing all these things wrong. I don’t know whether I even count as a real writer. 

But I’m having a great time doing it! 

Mike’s trilogy includes Aliens Crashed in My Back Yard, My Spaceship Calls Out to Me, Space Girl Yearning, and Alien Invasion: There Goes the Neighborhood.


Hubris, Writers, and Great Writing

I awoke early, thinking of hubris and of writers. And then, of that quality of writing which generation after generation calls great writing. It was too early to think. So, I looked this stuff up. Hubris, of course, is a personal quality of exaggerated pride or self-confidence.

Great writing, though, is difficult to Google. Typing the letters “great writing defi” into the search bar caused Google to suggests that I change my inquiry to “good writing definition.” Continuing on to “great writing defin,” I received the prompt, “great technical writing definition.” Meaning, Google knew my question but had no answer. I persisted with “great writing definition” and was rewarded with page after page of results for the definitions, qualities, characteristics, and essentials of -you guessed it- “good writing.” WTF?
Google assured me there are “about 820,000,000 results” for my inquiry, no combination of which even pretended to answer my question. So much for Google University. Time to seek the answer elsewhere.

Here is good. Writers ought to be able to define great writing.

But first, to hubris. We see it every day on TV and social media, people with little or narrow understanding telling all of the world what to think, feel, say and, for us writers, what and how to write. And that’s just the sincere people, the ones who know their lives would be better if we all just worked harder to make their lives better. Hubris, an exaggerated sense of self-importance.

The opposite of Hubris is Sophrosyne (σωφροσύνη). Meaning, “an ideal of excellence of character and soundness of mind.” I didn’t even try to Google that concept.

Writers, of course, deal with the world as it is by writing fiction. Whether our writing is great, or even good, is determined by what readers think of it. Writing may be the only profession where greatness is determined by people who know only what they want from make believe worlds.

Which brings us back to great writing: How, do you think, can we write such that generations of readers will want to pass on what we have written?