No, no, not another!

I was once a fan of Jean Auel’s Earth’s Children(TM) series.

I loved Clan of the Cave Bear. It was the best cave-people novel I had ever read (unfortunately, that’s not saying too much; the competition back then was sickly).

I loved parts of Valley of Horses. Parts of it were…let’s just say, not what I was looking for.

I loved some things about The Mammoth Hunters. The rest I lived with.

I enjoyed the scenery and the characters in Plains of Passage.

I re-read all of them, more than once, and many scenes remain vividly painted in my mind despite the obstacles.

I managed to drag my ass through Shelters of Stone one time. One stinking time, and I mostly remember one very unexciting scene. All attempts to re-read have drowned in a tar-pit.

Now we have The Land of Painted Caves. Ayla’s incredible(sic) prowess is veiled in yet another stupefying mass of congealing prose. Veiled, not unveiled; that’s what I said. Rather than improving over the many years, Jean Auel’s writing style seems to have grown worse. The action, the characters, everything is buried in verbosity that defies belief. There’s hardly a paragraph, in what I have read so far, that couldn’t be reduced by a third.

Dialogue is another sore point for me. Did stone-age people really talk like cardboard cutouts? Did they care that much about perfect syntax? If people had always spoken in such an egg-walking way, language would never have evolved. I want to hear some life in the way characters interact.

Add Ayla’s know-it-all-ness, Jondalar’s wuss-ness, interminable “As you know, Bobelar” explanations, and the usual heavy-handed head-hopping, and you get a flavorless stew that sticks in the throat of any discriminating reader.

Having sampled what is available on the Web, I have no great desire to rush out and buy the book. Not even to borrow the book. I don’t think it will add a whole lot to my life experience.

I will give Jean credit where it is due, however. Because of her, I have become a much better writer. In the eight years since I kick-started myself by writing parodies of her work, I have written more and learned more about the craft of writing than in my entire life before that.

So long and thanks for all the stone knives and bearskins 😉

About How-to-write Books

(originally a forum post)

IMO all how-to books should be taken with a grain of salt, 2lbs of meat, a couple of onions, carrots, potatoes, maybe a parsnip and/or turnip, some tomatoes, a dash of pepper, and any optional seasonings you see fit to add. At least that way you get a good stew that will sustain you through a few days of writing.

Wha’s Happenin’?

I know, I’m a lousy blogger.


The bad news:

Cops are on my back about yard maintenance. It got a bit shaggy after several years of ill-health caused mostly by lack of vitamins — caused by lack of money, caused by lack of job, etc. Also, there were various artifacts left by my grandfather, etc. etc.. So now that I’m halfway back on my feet, the city wants to knock me down again.

My extraordinary efforts to clean up have been seen as doing nothing. IMO I didn’t work on the front enough first. Fuck it, enough about that.

The good news:

SilentBob and I are enjoying a perpetually extended honeymoon. With drive space such as I would never have dreamed about back in 2001, I indulge my every whim, and my dear Bobster takes it all in stride. This poor computer now bears the burden of six installed operating systems and one virtual. My curiosity knows no bounds, and I am (almost) fearless.

We are into all sorts of graphics, sound, and video foolings-around.

On top of that mess, a laptop has joined the working crew. BitChunker, an “experienced” IBM Thinkpad, only has three OSes; Windows XP, Backtrack, and Slax. Bitsy’s job is info support for making house-calls, and wireless testing. The hard drive is a little weenie, no room for a lot of fun.

Oh, you thought this blog was supposed to be about writing and artsy stuff?

Well…I’m nine chapters into one novel, four into another, and A Drum Is Empty is suffering One. More. Edit.

Really-truly, the longer you leave work sitting, the more you see that can be trimmed and modified.

Another ongoing distraction is the Firebird Project. A friend who has been wanting to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of Stravinsky’s Firebird ballet suite has roped me in. We are planning a presentation and discussion that will include a video of the ballet, a Powerpoint about the ballet and the legend, and a video using my music with fire photos and fractals. Part of the idea is to contrast the beginning of modern music with music and art of the computer age. Epic, daunting, but nearly two months to go yet.

fire demon


I’m on a roll in Twitter. Clumps of followers. It’s not The Ahts, it’s the techness. And teh lolz. Only a third or so of recent new followers have been @-holes. I shitlist the @-holes, of course.

Hmm, I wonder what sort of spam this post will attract 🙂

The invisible crutch phrase (rants and confessions)

What is one of the most useless sets of pad-words, a mainstay of badfic, a hallmark of inattentive or amateurish writing? Hint: It isn’t on any of the big lists of useless crap.

Watched as

Watched WHAT as? “As” implies simultaneous action. “As” is overused and abused enough without this pernicious parasitic phrase.

This well-established writerism goes unnoticed, even when it is used twice in the same page. How many occurrences can you count in your work? Can you live with it once you’re aware of it?

I am painfully aware. It bugs the hell out of me; the w.a. flea jumps out and bites me wherever I find it. When I see it in a beginning sentence, I read no more, because I know the rest is going to be poorly written. I confess to having let it slip out once, several years ago, in a fan-fic. This is all the more embarrassing because I am generally uncanonical and iconoclastic in my ficking. I hope to atone for that sin by raising awareness in others.

Ask yourself what it stands in for. What did you mean when you dropped in that habitual “watched as”? Does it mean merely that the character is watching something happen? Then say, “MC watched the parade pass by,” or “MC watched Villain skin Friend alive.” Does it mean more than that? Then say, “Held by the spell, MC watched, frustrated and helpless, while Villain skinned Friend alive.” Lousy example, but you can see how little meaning w.a. has.

A warning about “As” in general: While actions may be simultaneous, they can also have causative relationships, and/or might not have the same duration. I’ve seen a lot of as-linked phrases that implied a role reversal. “The specters crossed the room as the candle flickered once” does not give the same picture as “The candle flickered once as the specters crossed the room“. The first example is totally cockeyed; it says that the spectral parade lasted only as long as the brief flicker of the candle. I’ve seen this done over and over by writers with a bad as-habit.