As anyone who is Irish, or who wants to be, knows, this Sunday, 17 MAR 2019, is Saint Patrick’s Day. It’s a time to turn our thoughts to Ireland, a land rich with tradition, creativity and inspiration. There are stories like The Quiet Man, Darby O’Gill and the Little People, and The Crying Game. They Irish have given us the Wee Folk (see Darby O’Gill), bands like the Cranberries, (RIP Dolores O’Riordan), the Dropkick Murphys (okay, okay, they’re just a heavily-Irish-influenced band-born-in-America, but  man, they give one hell of a show!) and Flogging Molly (ditto, on both counts!). The island’s birthed horrors like banshees and U2 (okay, okay, I liked U2 up until Zooropa. But now I just run screaming). Speaking of horror, there was a particularly awesome game inspired by and taking place on the Emerald Isle, Clive Barker’s Undying (EA, if you are reading this, pull your head out of your collective rear. Single-player games are NOT dead. You’re suffering from Ford-itis: if you made something people wanted to play, they would buy it. Or let someone else finish Patrick Galloway’s story. I am sure I am not the only one with a few ideas…)

All that is just to say that it’s not just another holiday, especially not just one to tilt back plenty of emerald-tinted pints, but named for a Catholic saint (although, that’s not a bad idea…Or try a little whiskey…)

Now for the disclaimer: I am not Catholic. Not even close, and I find the word “abhorrent” to be terribly insufficient to describe the abuses and cover-ups that have occurred over the decades (probably centuries!). However, I find the whole deal with saints and their stories pretty fascinating. If you’re a regular visitor, you may have read my little spiel on Valentinus, AKA Saint Valentine, several weeks ago. First the red, and now with the Green, as I tackle Saint Patrick!

Like the rest of them, he got the rename treatment from his Latin name, Patricius. He wasn’t really even “Irish” but sent there as a missionary in the fifth century, originally coming from a place in Britain that is now known as Ravenglass (how cool is that name!?) . Among several works attributed to them, he wrote an autobiography, one in which claimed to have been kidnapped by pirates(!) and subsequently escaped, returned to his family in Britain but then ended up back in Ireland to come spread the Word and convert the Celts.

Just like Saint Valentine’s Day, there are a few symbols that evoke the holiday, but none moreso than the shamrock. Where did that come from? According to legend, Patricius himself plucked one from the ground and used it to illustrate the Trinity: God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit.

And what about the whole snake thing? That one happens to be my favorite, how Patricius kicked them all (along with the other reptiles) off of the island. I imagine a reptile roundup, herding the snakes and the geckos and the komodo dragons and forcing them off of the cliff like a bunch of lemmings! Alright, so it’s far more likely that Ireland never HAD any snakes, but it’s great fodder for some good stories… I have to be fair here, too. I actually LIKE snakes, and don’t mind at all when I find a shed skin in the house, or see one slithering away just as I flip on the switch. Not really fond of finding them in the toilet bowl, still alive…

I could go on and on, but what kind of writer am if I don’t encourage you to go read about these things for yourself? Here’s a link to get you started.

And, if you’ve ever felt an “Erin go Brach” shout-it-out moment coming on, let me know below!

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

 

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Genre Focus: Science Fiction

Posted: March 6, 2019 in Uncategorized

Let me state this first: genres are a generic construct created by booksellers to classify products and make it easier for shoppers to find the books.

I would argue that there are few books that would fall solidly under any single genre umbrella. Think of some of your favorite novels, and examine them honestly for any other elements that are present — romantic show up quite often in so many others, and romance has its share of sub categories (historical romance, fantasy romance, contemporary romance, science fiction romance, etc.). So addressing any one genre in particular may seem to be a losing battle, but genre still serves its purpose in finding readers.

With that caveat acknowledged, I’ve decided to take a look at the different common genres in which I write, and bring up influences that may or may not come from the same type of source material.

This premier week I am taking a look at Science Fiction.

Although I love so many different categories of stories, science fiction has remained nearest and dearest to my heart. The first movie I remember seeing was Star Wars, in the drive-in theater (do they have these anymore!?!), and just being entranced by every single moment of it. Now, Star Wars (which has long since been renamed Star Wars IV: A New Hope), isn’t pure science fiction, especially when a lot of the “science” has had many liberties taken with it, and its been recognized as Space Opera, a sub-genre. But that “opera” is key. There are elements of the budding romance between Han Solo and Princess Leia, and plenty of humorous moments (love the dry droid humor!).

So what makes a story “science fiction”? Is it space and space travel? Surely, there are an overwhelming number of stories where this is present, if not the primary element. Such as Fredrik Pohl’s Heechee novels are some of my absolute favorites. Among all the other sub-genres it touches on, it includes the idea of space travel as a complete unknown and one of the central conflicts. While humans have limited means of travel away from the earth and to the Gateway asteroid, the Heechee aliens who came before them, so long before that they left all kinds of things behind including mushroom-like space ships. It’s these ships that form the basis of the conflict–the inhabitants of the asteroid have extremely high rents for everything, including air, and the only way they can make any kind of money is by “prospecting” — signing up to go out on these ships and hoping they will find something to make the trip worthwhile. And, of course, making it back at all, since no one knows what will happen on many of the vessels until someone gets in and uses it. Those on the asteroid only vaguely know what the controls do and the screens mean, so every trip in a different mushroom is a huge gamble. (And this is only scratching the surface of everything these novels are about. Robinette Broadhead is one of my absolute favorite protagonists, deeply flawed but sympathetic characters. Pohl was a master at creating rich characters affected by the science).

But there are many examples that don’t even acknowledge space or space travel which are definitely science fiction. Think The Time Machine, Journey to the Center of the Earth, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Lots of travel here, but they never leave the earth to encounter their strange new worlds.

What about those strange new worlds, and aliens? Their presence in the story is dependent on space travel (even if how they got here may just be taken for granted), but it could be the aliens visiting us here on earth. Or it could be visiting alien worlds without the typical space travel, like Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars. (And there we go with the drama and romance again…)

I could go on for a very long time, bringing up many other possibility that makes it “science fiction”, but the bottom line is that any particular element is subservient to that masterful question, “What if…?” There MUST be some element of posing a question, a situation set up to examine at least one answer and its particular consequences.

Asimov approached this in various ways, one of the core being (with liberties taken to the exact nature of the question he was asking) “what if robots are created with sentience and live among us?” As they are man-made, are they subject to the same laws, or is someone else entirely responsible for their behavior, since they were the original programmers?

In my short story “Clones are People Two”, my question is “what if the clones created from a formerly-deserving individual are executed along with the one who provided the DNA when he commits a felony?”

Let me know what you think belongs in science fiction to make it such? What are your favorite science fiction novels, and the elements that make them stand out?

You can purchase Clones from Amazon or Smashwords if you are so inclined. And if you do, be sure to leave an honest review!

Read an EBook Week is Here!

Posted: March 2, 2019 in Uncategorized

Starting March 3rd and ending March 9th, 2019

Time to defenestrate those excuses for reading! (That’s just a fancy way of of saying “chuck it out the window”–thanks MST3K!)

Books over at Smashwords are on sale for this great event, and it’s your chance to pick up some great reads on the cheap. I’m offering some of my books for FREE!

T. R. Neff at Smashwords

Just click on the link above and shop the deals, then let me know what you think! (And be honest, at either end of the spectrum. How’s a writer to improve if she doesn’t know where to shore up her weaknesses?)

In case the link above doesn’t apply the code, use KE84Z when you check out.

Happy reading to ya!

My favorite “weather event” – lightning!!!!! From Physics World

…but it could certainly help.

Here in the Mid-Atlantic region, we’ve been getting battered by storms of late (though thankfully not nearly so bad as the Northwest or out west in general. There as even snow in Vegas! So much for me moving there to get away from it.).

That got me thinking about weather as it pertains to fiction. Weather is one of those things we may not necessarily think about as obstacles or conflicts but can be extremely useful to the writer. Take your daily commute, for example. You have your routes, you know the traffic and the peculiarities of that particular way to go. Introduce a “weather event” and a simple trip that takes you 15 minutes now becomes an hour-long expedition. Ice coats the road, sending drivers slipping and sliding every which way, and that snaky road you just love to coast down in better conditions now becomes a threat to your life–that drop off of one side becomes all too apparent, and that little bit of guard rail isn’t exactly a bastion against disaster. Snow or rain comes down in blankets that keep you from seeing more than a foot in front of your windshield, erasing the cars, downed trees and every landmark. Suddenly, your normal drive becomes less-than-familiar. A threat, even.

Sometimes, the weather is a major plot device, like the cyclone in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum. Who could imagine Dorothy’s grand entrance into the magical world of Oz by just falling asleep and waking up? That dramatic, threatening cyclone needed to rip her house from its foundation and plunk her down in the middle of Munchkin Country. Many a romance has driven two people together by finding the lone cabin in the woods to wait out the storm. And what good ghost story around the campfire didn’t begin with “It was a dark and stormy night…”, making the chase through the woods all the more precarious when the hapless teens try to escape the Hatchet Killer.

How can you use this in your fiction?

Using weather that makes sense for the setting/genre, introduce it to spice up a scene that needs more tension:

The car’s tire blew out, so now your character has to change a tire. In the rain. With only mud beneath the car that won’t support a jack. And her ex-husband is somewhere out there, driving around looking for her. She might have to abandon the car, having to walk who knows how far without an umbrella, getting soaked to the bone. When she shows up at the only house on that lonely stretch of road, covered in mud and dripping all over the carpet, the farmer’s wife is going to be less inclined to help the poor soul than to wonder what she’s doing out there in the middle of the night.

A bolt of lightning could fry the electronics in his little puddle jumper, forcing the pilot to land in some pretty remote area of the Amazon jungle and have to fight through man-hungry jaguars and fierce tribesmen to get to the missionary outpost and deliver the medications before everyone ends up dead from some virulence sweeping through the natives and missionaries alike.

The squad missed meeting up with the convoy, and have to hoof it across the desert to reach their base, surrounded by hostile actors that could be occupying every town on the way just waiting to take them out, and the untried lieutenant must lead his men across the unforgiving land while a haboob bears down on their position.

Already dangerously remote, the lonely station falls under the deadly blanket of a blizzard that sweeps in and cuts off all communication and air rescue, leaving the scientists to deal with the isolation–and with the alien creature among them, taking them out one by one (okay, okay, that’s kinda based on Who Goes There? but you get the picture).

It doesn’t even have to be “real”. What about in a fantasy setting?

Without warning, a psychic storm broke out over the floating isles, threatening to plunge the landmasses into the abyss and robbing every one of its mages–the only ones capable of keeping them buoyant in the storm–of their abilities, and the only one who is immune to the storm’s fury is holed up in a crystal prison a thousand miles away.

So what is your favorite scene in a work of fiction that leans heavily on weather for its conflict? Or can you think of a scene in any work of fiction that could have been made better, in the context of the work, by introducing some kind of weather event?

As anyone with a significant other knows (maybe after several dozen hints dropped, or even outright reminders), tomorrow is St. Valentine’s Day, a day meant to celebrate romantic love all over the world. Yes, all that in spite of its Christian origins, just like Christmas itself and its various permutations in other cultures and traditions. Unlike Christmas, however, it’s not really a public holiday (at least not one where everyone has the day off!)

I’ve been fascinated by the day, not because of its connections with romance and love, although the chocolate thing wins me over. But then, maybe we should just have national “romance the chocolate days”. No, my interest comes more from its associations with ancient Roman history. Like Christmas and Saint Nicholas*, its origins are probably (and by “probably” I mean “very likely”, since we’re dealing with the Romans here) far more grimdark.

No one is absolutely sure of the exact origins, not least of reasons being a lot of Roman Christian martyrs went by the name Valentinus, all doing things that could roughly be associated with it. (Then again, Christianity is about love, though not romantic love** per se, so the confusion is understandable.) In one case, Emperor Claudius visited one of the Valentines in prison, conversing with him and attempted to get him to renounce his Christianity. Valentine in turn tried to convert Claudius, which earned him an execution, but not before he healed his jailer’s daughter of her blindness. Another variation features the same Valentine, only this time he converted the jailer’s household. There are others, plenty of others. The idea of cards come from these legends too, as he exchanged letters with a girl (in some cases it is again the daughter of his jailer) whom he taught to read, and signed them “Your Valentine” (or was it “Valentinus Tibi”?).

So what about that heart shape? How did it get so… weirdly simplified? The symbol itself is much older than its current connotations equivocating it with the anatomical one beating in most peoples’ chests. A seed pod or a leaf shaped was thought to inspire the symbol. In an illuminated manuscript, there’s a reference within a letter of a man giving his woman his “heart” although it looks less like a heart and more like a wedge of apple and some cite it as one of the first examples of the symbol meaning “love”.

Now, what REALLY symbolizes love for me… well, let’s just say…

You can keep your Valentine’s Day cards.

Gimme chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate.

 

*One of my favorite stories about Saint Nicholas is how he resurrected the remains of missing children who were butchered and put into a barrel to cure and later be sold as “ham” by the greedy butcher during a famine. Nicholas suspected the butcher and proved him the murderer. He saves a lot of innocents from being executed or caught other officials in acts of corruption. That would make an interesting set of detective stories, if anyone is so inclined to write them– Saint Nick, P.I.

**Read Song of Solomon from the Bible and tell me that’s “just an allegory of Christ’s love for the church”. First, it’s Old Testament. Second, it reads a LOT like ancient erotic poetry from the region at that time (said another way, it would be like making a porno and said it was symbolic of chaste love). Third, considering its namesake, don’t forget the conditions that gave him his life. Christians weren’t ever meant to be prudes and married couples should fully celebrate intimacy and love.

**Warning – Possible Spoilers**

Many, many years ago when Silence of the Lambs was a new Academy-Award-seizing film, I must have watched it about three dozen times. Knew it by heart, and it influenced my decision to take up criminalistics in college (but that came later). And finally, I decided to head to the library (those brick-and-mortar buildings that held hundreds, possibly thousands or tens of thousands of books, all to check out and read for FREE. Since it was, you know, when “kindle” was something you did to a fire to get it going) and grab Thomas Harris’ novel to see where the story came from. Of course, I had an expectation that what I found in those pages wouldn’t be much like the screen.

I was blown away. Hollywood had actually done a really good job interpreting the novel. The only real differences I can recall are the condensed determination that the moth was the much rarer Death’s Head (the entomologists made an initial mistake in identification), removed some of the scenes depicting Jame Gumb’s disgust with his male parts and they sprung the “girl suit” surprise a little earlier in the novel’s pacing. None of the passion and the story Harris put to page was really sacrificed.

Normally I cringe when I see there’s a movie being made from a novel I love, and I watch it with considerable reluctance and pretty low expectations. It can never be a total letdown when you expect it to be a total fail. In that department I’ve been surprised, when I took my sister to see The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Except for missing one important addition to the line, which I KNEW they would omit from the script, and having the creepy man-like blonde play the Witch who was supposed to be stunningly gorgeous). I was blown away. I actually cried, seeing a movie I had waited my entire life to see (now if they would only make C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy… Peter Jackson, are you out there?).

 

And then there’s that classic dystopian novel, Harry Harrison’s Make Room, Make Room. Don’t know it? Sure you do. It’s where one of the most iconic movie lines came from: “Soylent green is people!” Well, maybe not the book, but the movie that bears the name. I loved the movie (I still love Charlton Heston films) and so when I found a copy of the book, I dove in. No “soylent green” is people. In fact, that whole idea of reconstituted people isn’t part of Make Room, Make Room at all, and the soylent only refers to soy/lentil “steaks.”

I generally prefer the movies from Stephen King’s novels to the novels themselves, with few exceptions (The Shining being one, as I preferred the ending, making more sense). He wrote with so much fluff in his novels that we kids used to joke that you could skip the first five chapters of The Tommyknockers (or any of his novels of that period) and still have the core of the story.

I couldn’t sit through all of Forrest Gump, and didn’t read the book, but I’ve been told by many family members that the movie cuts out all of the crap.

TV shows can get in on the action too–though I am not really crazy about some of the plot changes from novel to show, Game of Thrones does a pretty darn good job of keeping to, and sometimes surpassing Martin’s stories (especially when he rambles for pages about what gross things his characters are devouring while talking about nothing of substance or doing anything of concern).

So, what books have you read that have been pleasantly surpassed by the movie version?

 

As anyone possessing a modicum of Google-fu knows, the internet is chock full of grand stories in the news, true and false.

For the writer, it doesn’t really matter which way they bend, as they can be great fodder for story ideas.

Take the Mandela Effect, for instance. Some people think of it as a real phenomenon that proves there’s some kind of alternate reality or time-travel-past-manipulation. Examples include the titular Nelson Mandela, with many people swearing he died in prison in the 80’s instead of in 2013, even to the point of recalling funeral footage. Another example is the Publisher’s Clearing House spokesman, Ed McMahon. Only he wasn’t their spokesman–he worked for American Family Publishers. There are a lot of movie quotes, using lines from everything from the Alice in Wonderland classic to, ironically enough, The Matrix (although personally I think that’s less of a false memory effect than on perpetuating the quote incorrectly and the incorrect version becoming more famous–i.e., better remembered–than the original. Couple that with a spoiled snowflake’s spending more time concocting a reason why the whole of reality is screwed up rather than simply admitting they were wrong and you end up with a pseudo-science they can point to any time they screw something up).

For authors, though, that hardly matters. It’s the thought that counts, and we always think it’s more fun to speculate on what could be the cause of what, at first glance, seems like strange phenomena. And then tuck that cause into a well-written story that makes the odd entirely plausible. Because that’s what we really want–not the truth, when we are reading fiction, but a plausible truth, a fantasy-that-could-be-real.

So, have you experienced any Mandela Effects?

 

Setting the Right Tone

Posted: January 16, 2019 in The Writing Process

Years ago (longer ago than I want to admit in such a public forum) in grade school, my classmates and I were given assignments to write articles in the manner of the news, the “who-what-when-where-why-how”. We generally stated the facts although some of us given to florid language would pick a particular verb or noun that was “weighted”, and we got marks off for painting a bias into our “reporting.”

Take the following three sentences, for instance:

The group of people approached the courthouse.

The mob descended on the courthouse.

The protestors gathered in front of the courthouse.

 

They all three state the same facts, some more specific than the other, but some also more charged than others. The first one is pretty neutral, and fairly bland. While it may be vague, it is at least factual–there were people, of whatever affiliation or purpose–who went to the courthouse. The second one is decidedly negative, insinuating that the people aren’t just a group but a mass of people upset with something (the “mob” aspect)who are descending or overwhelming the courthouse. The third could be positive or negative depending on your view of recent “protestors”* exercising their First Amendment rights. The latter two definitely lend their own bent to the situation, and the author’s opinions of the occurrence are as clear as what occurred. Possibly even clearer.

It IS a sad state of affairs that creative writers can take a few lessons from the very “journalists” who were supposed to just report the news without adding their own colors, but it is what it is. Wise folks learn whatever they can from whomever, whether they agree with them 100%** of the time or not. In this case, learn that the entire tone of a piece can be changed with the substitution of the right words. If you’re writing horror, you’re going to pick from a decidedly different list of adjectives than if you are describing a scene in a romance, even if, say, both scenes took place in a castle, or a cave, or an abandoned house. This is even more true for the first-person narration, where the author is telling the story through the character’s head–their feelings, their emotions should color every scene, giving us a sense of not only what is going on but how they feel about it.

Let’s take that idea of an abandoned

“We entered the empty house. Boards creaked when we stepped on them. Our footsteps echoed. We moved into the shadows. We went further into the house.”

“We crept into the abandoned mansion. Boards creaked and squealed beneath every footstep, the oil-slick shadows swallowing the echos. We pressed on, deeper and deeper.”

“We slipped into the neglected chateau, wary of the boards creaking and revealing our presence beneath every step. We slid into the embracing shadows the way we slid into each others’ arms, deeper and deeper.”

 

These sentences aren’t going to win any awards, but which one would you guess belongs in a horror story?

Which in a romance novel?

And which in the first draft revision purge bin?

Sound off below, and let me see your Tone in action!

 

 

*Many of which I would call a “mob” considering their aims were less to make an important point for justice and more for wanton destruction to homes and property owned by people who have nothing to do with whatever the protestors are “protesting”. And, yes, that’s my opinion. I’m a creative writer, not a journalist.

**Anyone who surrounds themselves with people who only agree with each other 100% of the time or shout down/drive out those who do not agree are guilty of that aspect of fascism where any ideas other than those holding the reins are suppressed. It can be as large as global/governments or as small as a group of people who are supposed to be respectful of each others’ opinions. That’s the real reason behind the First Amendment to give everyone a voice in the discussion, and to bring to light unpopular thoughts. Unfortunately, we are slipping away from  any kind of tact or civility in our discourse…

Perhaps you need to set a tone for a scene that’s a  little dark, a little hopeless. Maybe your characters are starting to feel each others’ chemistry, and you find yourself trying to write something subtle and seductive. Or is it a case of writer’s block, where nothing seems to stimulate your fingertips into their keyboard dance and light up the page?

How can you get there with a little help from your friends? In this case, make music your friend. But just how can they help?

Songs and music influence mood. Picking the right songs can get you into the right groove for whatever scene you happen to be writing.  Years ago when I was still in grade school (more years than I would prefer to admit), I played a computer game on my Commodore 64 called Wasteland. It was fantastic but, like many other games of its age, it lacked something that is so ubiquitous in games now you would miss it if it wasn’t there–a soundtrack. So I made my own: Alice in Chains’ Facelift, Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine and that gem-of-a-lifetime Pink Floyd’s The Wall. To this day, I can listen to The Wall and instead of seeing the movie (which is fantastic in its own right), I am right back there with my Desert Rangers in the warhead-riddled American Southwest.

Consequently, when I started writing my novel, Umbra: A Post-Apocalyptic Mystery, I turned back to my Wasteland staples and found the same gritty, dark influence I needed for certain scenes. That’s not to say I didn’t turn toward more modern music, and that was when I tripped over a serendipitous find.

Have you ever listened to a song that struck so close to the mark that you would swear the musician crawled into your head and took your own thoughts and feelings to turn into a song? That happened with the same novel, Umbra, when I was finishing up the revision. I’d already named my main character ‘Vera’ after the (real-life) woman in the Pink Floyd song from The Wall * (she’d been ‘Vera’ through about ten iterations of the lone woman in a post-apoc world until she finally emerged as the mystery-solving protagonist in Umbra), when I saw there was another song with the same name by Ebba Forsberg. I couldn’t believe how much the song’s theme hit on the same themes and happenings my character was going through. That impetus really helped me finish my revision and get it out there, and Forsberg’s song became Vera’s theme.

Sometimes the lyrics themselves can inspire the story. I have an as-yet-unpublished science fiction romance based on Cinderella-meets-Enemy Mine, which all stemmed from two dancing-themed songs: Celine Dion’s Refuse to Dance and macabre humor of Heads We’re Dancing written by the brilliant, quirky Kate Bush. (Apparently, Pink Floyd held some sway over Kate Bush too. I just looked up the wiki on her post-nuclear song Breathing and it says she cites The Wall as an influence! David Gilmour also did some production on her album The Kick Inside). The Omen-Eyes short story collection and The Opal Necklace (in revision) had Dead Can Dance and Lisa Gerard as their soundtrack. For the SHARC collection (also in revision), I listened to a lot of electronica, dubstep and Imogen Heap. For the current draft of my new Ennid the Havoc story, I discovered Thrice’s The Alchemy Index (particularly Volume II, covering the element Water).

Whatever your writing dilemma, try listening to some tunes to spur your creativity or set your mind at the right tone.

*There are quite a few Pink Floyd and popular culture references in my novel. I’d love to know which ones you found, so post them here (with spoiler alerts where necessary).

Or… How the Internet Killed the Intended Plot.

 

Every author, no matter if they write for profit or pleasure, faces that dreaded inky, seemingly-infinite darkness known as ‘Writer’s Block.’ We are under a great deal to come up with something new, something novel (pun intended) or we risk losing our readers for good. The pressure has only increased with the advent of self-publishing and everyone getting in on the game, on top of the literal millions of other things out there they could be reading besides fiction off of an e-book reader. Worse still are the forums.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Forums are a great place for readers to go gush about the latest book they read in a series, possibly winning over new readers for the author by word of mouth.

The problem is in the speculation.

And, yes, I was guilty of this at one time until I realized the potential damage it could cause. (This was not for A Song of Ice and Fire*, although I have my theories there, I keep them to myself and hope to be surprised by what happens in future books**…IF Martin ever gets them out).

That damage is this: So much speculation could rob the author of the plot.

Let’s show instead of tell, and use a ridiculous scenario of a couple of rabid ASOIAF fans on a forum with a fictional Sixth Book ending:

BILL: Ohmigosh, I got so mad when I read that end! I thought we were going to learn about Jon Snow’s parentage and then *poof*.

SAMMY: Yeah, man. I have my ideas about it, and wanted to see if I was right. See, I think Jon’s Snow’s mom is actually his “sister” Sansa who was sent back into the past and impregnated by the then-younger Hound!

DAN: Nah, that’s silly! I think his dad is actually Mance and Osha and…

 

Need I go on? And it’s not about the theories being “far out there” – it’s about them being out there at all. Now say Martin comes along, and he had an idea very similar to Sammy’s that involved some kind of weird time travel injected into the plot and he stumbled onto this particular threadnow… now he could face a myriad of problems.

#1:  Someone else already thought about it, and posted it, and it could look like Martin was ripping off the idea. If he publishes with this, yeah, it may make the poster feel good by affirming his theory, but it could open up Martin to accusations of theft/plagiarism/laziness/hackishness/etc.

#2:  Someone already thought of the idea and now Martin is forced to come up with something even more novel, which means that it will take that much longer.

There’s also the danger of fan fiction, which any author of the basis of the fan fiction should avoid reading at all costs. (Is that a litmus test for having “made it”, when others spend their own time doing horrible, unmentionable things to/between your characters?)

So, not cool for the author any way around. Now, most of us don’t have nearly the following for our worlds and characters that would engender the hours of thought put into what we think is going to happen, or think has happened and are waiting for it to be affirmed. Don’t get me wrong–guessing what happens is part of the fun, and shows that an author did a great job of creating an immersive world where the readers like us get so involved in the lives of completely fictional characters. It’s just that it can cause a lot of problems for the author when they are broadcast on so public and pervasive a forum as many of them devoted to such works as ASOIAF. Readers, please remember that if you really love the author and want them to keep writing, be kind.

 

Have you had theories about characters/plots of popular series and divulged them in a public forum? Did they pan out, or were your dreams for Heroine X and Hero Y getting together dashed beyond all hope? Please share only wins/losses, no speculations on as-yet-unresolved plot points.

 

*For the curious, my theories about plot were regarding Star Wars characters in their Knights of the Old Republic, not ASOIAF. But, like I said, I do have my theories about Jon Snow’s parentage…

**AND NO, I have not watched the series beyond Season 2. Maybe I will get to the rest of it, someday…

***Note: I don’t have secret access into his mind, so maybe he isn’t even suffering from this dilemma, and I just gave him another “out” for why his books take him so long to get out there. But he COULD be facing these dilemmas.

In case you wanted an update, I’m working through several revisions of differing genres, and one new novel in the Ennid the Havoc universe, but unfortunately I have no dates on them. Sign up for my newsletter and I will send updates, and you might even get a chance to do some beta reading.