Imaginary friends and writing

by Mandy Broughton

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My daughter had an imaginary friend. My daughter treated her as a real friend. So real that it was six months before I realized she didn’t exist. Imagine my surprise when I asked the preschool teachers to point out Olivia to me and they told me, “there’s no Olivia in this class.” Turns out there wasn’t an Olivia in any classes at the school. I know, I checked.

Best friends. Olivia was quite the trouble-maker. I’d hear all about these wild parties my daughter and Olivia would throw while I slept blissfully through the night. I said more than once I was glad Olivia was good at cleaning up the house after a wild night of partying.

Olivia’s mom was quite the rebel too. I was informed one day that Olivia’s mom was thrown in jail for speeding. I found myself arguing with a three year old on whether or not her imaginary friend’s mother was thrown in jail for speeding. Sheesh!

I decided to research children and imaginary friends. I never had any. As a child, I was perfectly content to sit and read in my room all day. Friends–real or imaginary–would disturb that peace.

Imaginary friends are what we would expect from highly creative people. Active imagination. Intelligent. Creative. Verbal. What I did not expect was that many adults had imaginary friends. What?! Are these people in need of a mental health professional? Maybe, but mostly they are creative adults. And it turns out many of those creative adults are authors.

As a writer, I know I have proper characterization when I dream about my characters. I can hear what they say in certain situations. I know how they’d act when problems arise. Fictional characters should not be shooting gallery ducks forced to respond in a certain way when a crisis occurs.* Characters should be organic, growing as the story progresses. They should feel more real than some real-life celebrities we watch and follow in the news.

As a writer, have you ever needed a character to act a certain way and she just wouldn’t? She’s supposed to be angry but she’s acting all quirky and sarcastic on the page. Or two characters start flirting with each other and they’re not supposed to even like each other. Happens to me all the time. My characters have taken over the pages of my manuscripts. And many of them are completely unrepentant for derailing my plot. I guess I’ve developed imaginary friends as an adult. Maybe I’m a late bloomer.

So tell me, dear writers, how do you know when you’ve achieved proper characterization? Do you hear voices in your head? Do you dream about them? Do you mock-up a fake Facebook page and imagine what they’d post? I mostly argue with mine.

Back to work on this first work week of the New Year. I hope the New Year brings plenty of good books, lots of writing, and great friendships–real and imaginary!

Oh, and I can’t forget, as a longtime, die-hard University of Houston Cougar alumni and fan… oDPuclxr.jpgCongratulations on winning the Peach Bowl. GO COOGS!

 

*My editor once told me my characters were like shooting gallery ducks, they were cardboard and went back and forth like I was shooting at them.

 

A Fantasy Interview: Almost as good as fantasy baseball–

by Mandy Broughton

Last Friday, Houston Writers Guild launched its new anthology, Tides of Impossibility. This collection of fantasy short stories is written by some of the field’s up-and-coming stars. And everyone knows what happens when I hear about a book launch–I find myself a new person to interview. After a flurry of emails, I was able to hunt down speak with one of the editors, C. Stuart Hardwick.

TOI

Mandy Broughton: I’m always curious how editors are chosen. Kyle Russell selected you as a co-editor on the Tides of Impossibility Fantasy Anthology. Is it true that when you gave Kyle a sample of your editing style, you used a gallon bucket of red paint versus a red pen? And you told him the tears of writers fuel you like Dilithium crystals do the Enterprise?

C. Stuart Hardwick: That’s a vile rumor started by the guy Kyle pays to clean out our buckets! Actually, editing an anthology is as much about time and energy as line editing. You spend a lot of time with each story, and you want it to be as pleasant as possible. Kyle and I had worked together promoting the scifi anthology, so we knew we had compatible tastes and temperaments. The guild has done a lot for me, so I was eager to give back. The rest was easy.

MB: Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. Hmm. I see distinct lines separating science fiction, fantasy, and horror, mostly determined on the basis if the story contains robots, magicians, or men in hockey masks. You write mostly science-fiction, but as an editor for a fantasy anthology, what do you see the differences among the three genres?

CSH: That sums it up rather well. It’s principally a topical difference, though fantasy readers are a bit more into world building, and horror of course has its own take on tension and pacing, and each follows its own tropes and conventions. But beneath all that, stories are about people, and the best are about interesting people in interesting circumstances changing in interesting ways. That’s what we tried to put into Tides.

I’ve found that the more I work in the field, the less I feel tied to any one sub-genre. If you asked me to recommend three books right now, they’d be Andy Weir’s The Martian, Tim Powers’ On Stranger Tides, and Randy Henderson’s debut, Finn Fancy Necromancy. That’s one hard scifi and two fantasy, and all thoroughly enjoyable. What really drew me to scifi was how readily it skirts reality to act as a foil or lens through which we can view ourselves. But storytelling is more than social commentary. Space opera like Star Wars is arguably really fantasy with a technological aesthetic, and many of my perennial favorites, from Groundhog Day to SyFy’s Warehouse 13, are fantasies that I enjoy for the character arcs as mush as the plot conceit, which is why I think Robert Heinlein has the right idea in championing “speculative fiction” as an umbrella term.. 

MB: [An aside: Warehouse 13 BRILLIANT!] Okay, speaking of speculative fiction, umbrellas, and the great Robert Heinlein, you have been rubbing elbows with the top echelon of science-fiction. Tell us about your awards and publications.

CSH: I was fortunate enough to win the L Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest last year, and they flew me to LA for a week long workshop taught by Tim Powers and Dave Farland. I got to meet a whole slew of scifi legends, from Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven to Nancy Kress and Nina Kiriki Hoffman. I dined with Starlog founder, Kerry O’Quinn, shared pizza with Robert J Sawyer, and spent the evening of my birthday standing out on Hollywood Boulevard watching the lunar eclipse with my awesome new writer friends.

I was also a finalist for the Jim Baen Memorial award and a semifinalist for the BSFA’s James White award, and I’m tremendously proud of making those lists. WotF, though, really lit the fire for me. It’s oddly humbling to be welcomed by such an array of luminaries who tell you in no uncertain terms, that while you have the ability, making it or not is still a long slog of hard work and perseverance.

MB: Is it true when Orson Scott Card asked you for your autograph that you told him to get to the end of the line with the rest of the losers?

CSH: Nooo. I think when Orson stepped up, I may have giggled like a little girl while I tried and failed to think up something memorable to write. Ender’s Game is once of my absolute favorites. And Orson was wearing sneakers with his suit, the devil.

MB: Sneakers with his suit, I like that almost as much as I love Ender’s Game. In your bio, you’ve mentioned that you’ve worn a cape. Readers want to know, when wearing the cape, who do you most resemble Bela Lugosi, Snidely Whipslash, or Batman?

CSH: Lugosi, of course. I was in a college production of Dracula. I’ve been told I have a light foot-step. That experience was very valuable, as my Van Helsing was always loosing his place in the script, and I found that you don’t get stage fright if you have something outside yourself to worry about. The image on my website landing page is of me sharing that advice on stage at the Ebell theater in LA.

MB: Anything else you’ve like to share?

CSH: Yes, Everyone check out Galaxy’s Edge magazine, issue 14., where my story appears along with those of Robert A. Heinlein, Larry Niven, Nancy Kress, David Brin, and Alan Dean Foster, among others. Galaxy’s Edge is edited by the inestimable Mike Resnick and filled with scifi and unique and quirky fantasy far afield of the traditional fae and dragon fare My story, Luck of the Chieftain’s Arrow, is a good example, about an elemental spirit that learns about love and loss as the copper it’s trapped in is passed down through human history.

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MB: I do believe May, 2015 is when your story will appear. Everyone check it out, it’ll be on the final exam. Thanks again, Stuart. Great work on the anthology. I’m looking forward to the release of Tides of Impossibility.

CSH: Me too. It’s has quite a variety and some really compelling worlds and characters. I know everyone will find something to their liking.

MB: Artemis Greenleaf has an excellent story in the collection as well a humorous piece from yours truly. That’s it. I hope everyone enjoys. **looks around** Hmm, I believe Stuart still has my pen I loaned him last Friday at the signing…

TOI

Collaboration, Craziness, and Completion: Steps to an Awesome Anthology

 

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by Ellen Leventhal

Introducing Space City 6: Houston Stories from the Weird to the Wonderful

According to Merriam-Webster, to collaborate means to work together with another person or group in order to achieve or do something. People have asked me how I can stand such a solitary endeavor as writing. The answer is that writing, and more specifically the production of a book, is not always solitary. It’s often collaborative.

Collaboration in writing takes many forms. It can mean actually writing a piece with someone else, it can mean working with an illustrator, or it can even mean taking part in critique groups where members help each other hone their stories. I’ve done it all.

But wait, there’s more! (Cue announcer on late night infomercial.) My newest collaboration has been one of the most difficult, yet rewarding ones for me. As part of the Space City Scribes, I had the opportunity to work with five other women in order to achieve something of which we’d be proud. Although we wrote individually, it was still a team effort. Working towards producing the best anthology possible, we read, critiqued, and re-read each other’s pieces. We doled out advice that we felt would strengthen the stories without diluting the writer’s unique voice. We were each other’s cheerleaders, pushing towards a common goal. All summer long emails flew through cyberspace to places as varied as Texas, Vermont, and Vienna, Austria. Yes, it definitely got a little crazy. However, often the craziness of collaboration is the magic. People throwing out ideas, other people piggy backing on those ideas, and lots of discussion…that’s collaboration. After much revision, the stories were done. Whew. And then it got really hard. And crazier. It was time for us, as a writing collaborative, to decide on a cover, a title, and a way to sell the book. Every decision was made as a group. More emails, more discussion, more hard work, and ok, a little more crazy thrown in for good measure. But the good kind of crazy! The kind that makes you proud. The kind that you look back on and say, “We did it.”

So now here we are. We’ve reached the final C…COMPLETION. We are proud to announce that our collaborative effort, Space City 6: Houston Stories from the Weird to the Wonderful is now available on Amazon. We hope you check us out and let us know what you think. Feel free to do it alone or get a friend to look at it with you. After all, sometimes collaborations yield the best results.