Tag Archives: Fiction

[Night Bazaar] Heroes and Heroines

Here’s an excerpt from my new post at The Night Bazaar, “Heroes and Heroines:”

I’m never quite sure what makes a hero, which I think is probably the key to knowing what makes a hero.

I look at it this way: if being a hero was easy, everyone would do it. But it’s not just that being a hero takes work or sacrifice…on the contrary, it takes knowing what to do to remedy a grievous situation, or at least prevent it from getting any worse. That’s actually a really tall order for most of us.

A hero is somebody who’s willing to get the knowledge necessary to understand what can be done without screwing up the world even worse than it’s screwed up. That doesn’t mean all protagonists are heroes — far from it. Many, even most, might have some heroic qualities…especially in adventure fiction. But that doesn’t make them heroes.

Read the rest of the post at The Night Bazaar.


New Post at The Night Bazaar: Writing Rules vs. Rules of Thumb

Hey! If you’re in the San Francisco area, come see me read with Richard Kadrey and Naamen Tilahun at Borderlands Books on Valencia Street tomorrow evening (Saturday 10/15/2011). It’s part of Litquake’s Litcrawl, the annual orgiastic celebration of the spoken word. You can find more details at my blog, or go to Borderlands-Books.com or Litquake.com. Hope to see you there!

Writing Rules vs. Rules of Thumb

This week we’re talking about writing advice I hate. I hate a lot of it, if not most of it. I think writing advice is fine…in its place. But my view is that writing advice should be considered a “rule of thumb,” not a rule. When writing advice starts to look like “rules,” it too often shows the cognitive, social and creative shortcomings and prejudices of the person who came up with it.

Mind you, please don’t think I’m talking about the rules of grammar, composition, POV, etc, which I think if possible you should know like the back of your hand, and respect; however, you should also break them willy-nilly if that serves the Work. (See what I did there, with the capital “W”? That’s an example of messing with The Rules to make a point. There! I did it again!! Wasn’t that awesome? Doing it just because you’re pretentious is also allowed, but it will annoy the hell out of everyone around you, as I surely just did. But that’s their problem, right?)

Beyond those very limited rules of grammar and composition, I think advice that makes the jump from rules-of-thumb to rules-to-live-by is anathema to creativity. Every work of fiction is different, and it should all exist on its own terms.

Read the Rest of this post at Night-Bazaar.com.

Come See Me @ LitCrawl With Ray Garton & Richard Kadrey, Oct. 15

I’ll be reading at Litquake’s LitCrawl in some very good company, October 15 at Borderlands Books in San Francisco. If you’ve never done LitCrawl, it’s not to be missed. Garton and Kadrey are legendary favorites of mine, and I’m looking forward to my first time hearing Naamen Tilahun read. What’s more, if you kick back on the Borderlands Couch for an hour leafing through dog-eared Michael Moorcock paperbacks, you’ll get two, Two, TWO LITCRAWL READINGS IN ONE, since our horror-themed gig is followed by some sf-fantasy-horror crossover folks next door at 8:30, featuring Mira Grant, Kirsten Imani Kasai, Steven R. Boyett, and Tim Pratt.

You can  Find out more about Litquake and LitCrawl here, and about events at Borderlands Books here.

Both events event are free, so come by and see us, bitte schön? Jawohldankeaufwiedersehen.

Litquake’s LitCrawl at Borderlands Books

With Ray Garton, Richard Kadrey, Thomas Roche and Naamen Tilahun

Saturday, October 15th at 7:15 pm

Borderlands Books, 866 Valencia Street (between 19th and 20th), San Francisco

We are delighted to once again take part in one of the most exciting literary events in San Francisco – the LitCrawl! This is a three-hour pub-crawl-style literary event with dozens of venues and hundreds of authors, all taking place right here in the Mission District. Between the bookstore and the cafe, we’ve got 8 fantastic authors in a mere two hours. This is always a super-crowded and immensely entertaining event.

…Also, the cafe next door has a second reading at 8:30, with some more sf-fantasy heavy hitters:

LitCrawl Redux at Borderlands Cafe

With Steven R. Boyett, Mira Grant, Kirsten Imani Kasai and Tim Pratt

Saturday, October 15th at 8:30 pm

Borderlands Cafe, 870 Valencia Street (between 19th and 20th), San Francisco

[Night Bazaar] The One Where Thomas Uses the F-Word

When it comes to writing, “Feedback,” of course, is the real F-word — an obscenity so strong that even Lenny Bruce was scared to utter it. I’ll get to that in a minute, but I’ve got a few things to say about that other F-word, first. I’m going to use it reluctantly, so I hope you’ll indulge me.

I’m not a writer who believes that the writing is in the rewriting. The writing, for me, is in the writing. There is a certain quality that needs to be there in a story or novel before rewriting will do me any good. There’s got to be something that burns at the center of it; the plot and the characters, and hopefully the setting, have to reach critical mass. If it doesn’t, I don’t think anything will save it. I find that more time will be wasted trying to save an uninspired story told in uninspired prose than would be spent starting all over again.

Starting all over again, sometimes, would also be — and here I use the F-word, as promised, only with a shudder.

Sometimes, starting all over again would be more fun.

My inner curmudgeon has the answer to that, by the way: Fun? So now writing is “fun”? Sure, whatever you say, guy. One published novel and he’s Bozo the Clown.


Book Marketing for the Reader Chauvinist

Thomas S. RocheIf you write fiction, presumably you’re doing it because you like fiction. Presumably your readers like fiction, too, or they’d spend their time doing something productive like raking a compost heap or shaving their eyebrows.

Therefore, connect with your readers as simply that: readers. The rarest of all endangered species, and precious beyond measure. The happiest outcome in book marketing will be if you take the view that your readers want to talk to you as a person, not as some kind of culture god. You only get to be a culture god if you’re British and have improbable hair.

Therefore, as an admitted “reader chauvinist,” I believe the most significant thing I have to contribute to the discussion about marketing is not as a writer. There, I’ve certainly been far less successful than others have. But where I’ve been incredibly successful is in finding awesome books to read throughout my life. So I’m going to give my advice from the perspective of an absolutely obsessive and voracious reader with some of the most phenomenally weird reading tastes of anyone you will ever meet.

Here’s how I’ve found books over the years, and what I think writers, readers, publishers, booksellers, and librarians can learn from it. Ultimately, I’m only one largely irrelevant data point, but if the world wasn’t basically a whole mess of data points, there wouldn’t be a world, right?


The Pleasures and Terrors of Short Fiction Submissions

Thomas S. RocheWhen I first started submitting my work for publication about twenty-five years ago, I’d already read enough about the process of becoming a writer that I expected a very tough road. I was also thoroughly confident that I was a genius, and this would guarantee my success if I just worked my ass off. I therefore became a fiction factory. I sat down and wrote 3-5 short stories a week, and submitted each and every one of them for publication. I virtually never wrote anything I didn’t finish, and I never tried to write longer works. I stuck with weird fiction — fantasy and science fiction with macabre and New Wave overtones — because that was what I read.


Life Ain’t Easy For a Boy Named Bonaparte-Luis Henderschott

I’ve written so much at this point that I can’t be counted on to come up with names for a story all on my own. If I picked the first name that came into my head each time, every character would be named “Ben Tyler” or “Jake Davis” or “Jessica Miller” or something.

To pick my character names, I need piles of baby name books; I need Google Translate; I need actuarial tables.

All of this may be to my detriment. Making up names is easier than writing, so maybe this is just my way of procrastinating, like blogging or resorting all my paperbacks by the second letter of the title. And it certainly can take as much time as I let it — often more. For me, character naming can take on a life of its own.

The result of all this procrastination is that I’ve been told that I have a facility for coming up with colorful names. To be sure, my exceptionally bizarre character names like Irma Precht, Spunky DeShanski and Douglas “Woppo” Chamberlain come to mind when I choose to pat myself on the back for my writing talents — but just as many readers find my more esoteric character names annoying. I’ve been told things like, “I just couldn’t pay attention to the story because I was wondering why anyone would name their kid Arwycke.”

But coming up with completely bizarre character names is one of the few pleasures left to me in my old age, so at this point I can’t stop any more than I could stop breathing.