Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: May, 2013

Notes from MisCon 27, Part 2

(To see all my posts on MisCon, including last year’s notes, go here.)

In the panel transcriptions, I’m mostly paraphrasing what the panelists said. If there are any errors, they’re mine and mine alone. For any corrections, just drop me a note.

Panel title: Plot, Plot, Plot
Panel members: Carol Berg, Jim Butcher, J.A. Pitts, Patrick Swenson
Panel description: What is plot? How is it different from storyline? How do you keep your writing moving fast? Our experts will share what they know.

CB: What is the difference between plot and storyline? For example: “The king died and the queen died” is a storyline. “The king died because the queen died” is a plot.

JB: I buy that, but I don’t have a distinction because I just write a story. Everything happens for a reason.

JAP: Plot and theme go hand in hand. They have to work together for the story phase. Different things happen to different people.

PS: It’s wherever it takes me. Characters are reacting to push what they want. If there’s no plot, it’s just action. You need a character who wants something and can’t get it. At the end, the character gets it.

CB: You need a goal, motivation, and conflict. You can have a list of events but it’s not necessarily a plot if there’s no connective tissue. In action movie sequels, things just happen. In a plot, actions and events of a story happen because a person encounters a situation and they react. How do you decide what events happen in your plot?

JAP: I outline a lot. Then I check if the plot is covered. And then the continuity.

JB: I write what is fun to write about. The challenge is to bring those images in my brain to the story and how to get the awesome into the story.

CB: The connective tissue is the hard thing. We can think of cool things, but we have to figure out how to make it work logically. The plot is a road map–write with a destination in mind. How do you get them there? Ask why would he do that? What are the alternatives?

PS: I throw in a bunch of stuff and see if my detective character reacts to it.

CB: Sometimes we know where it ends and cool things happen in between. But the problem is, now we get into character. You cannot divorce plot from character. How can you get a character to do something really bad? Plot flows out of character and how to make them do it.

JB: How do you get a character in trouble? You don’t want to control the reader’s destiny. You can tinker with the character’s past to get them to do it, but it’s clunky. It’s better if you design in beforehand. Then it can happen no other way. You can’t separate plot from character.

JAP: Know your character. How will the character react to the MacGuffin?

PS: I once saw a movie where they asked some authors what they would do if a character does something that they didn’t want them to do. They answered, “Change their past” or “Kill them.”

CB: Connie Willis once said that you are the creator of the characters; they are not real. You are in control. You have to do the hard work of making it work. Plot, designing the right character, learning what they would do. Have you ever plotted yourself into a hole?

JAP: I outline, but then I get off the outline because I come across something cool. If I get into a plot hole, I get angry, do something else, and then go back to the original outline.

JB: There are no dead ends, only opportunities. You overcome it for something awesome. Don’t automatically assume it’s a wall.

CB: In one of my stories, I had a boy who was kidnapped. But I had two other narrators in first person. So who can tell his story? Finally, I had to have the child tell the story–and it was some of the best writing I’ve done. It can be an opportunity. Or go back to your last decision point and see if you made the wrong choice.

PS: I go on a chapter by chapter basis with cliffhangers. I use it as an opportunity. Look at it in a different angle. Reposition the character.

CB: Is there a difference if you’re in the middle of a series or a new book?

JB: In a series, you must balance if a character is needed and how much they appear on stage. Consider which side character is relevant or is the best person to approach the story. Also consider if a new character is needed–don’t double up on what an established character can already do. In a new series, you can drop in characters all the time. In an old series–I have to consider that a new character will be put on the wiki and I end up not doing it because it’s too much work.

JAP: If an ensemble gets too big, some of the characters have to go away. Everything has to be unique enough that it’s not like something that you wrote before.

CB: I don’t necessarily plan out a series ahead of time. Each book is a story, but it’s also part of a larger escalating story. How can you raise the stakes without being repetitive?

Q: Some disasters happen in your [Jim Butcher’s] latest book. How do you know if it’s too disastrous?

JB: I check how late it is in the outline. But you can’t have too much disasters. New writers tend to hold back. You need to make it more disastrous. More disasters are always good.

Q: Aristotle said that character is plot. What’s your take on that?

PS: A character is in charge of his own destination. Escalate the trials and failures.

CB: One drives the other.

JAP: There are lots of things without plot but have just character and they are successful.

JB: Also keep in mind the context that Aristotle was in. In the ancient world writing was different then–it was more about value.

Q: As a character grows, do you alter the plot for the character or try to squeeze the character into the plot?

CB: Never squeeze the character into the plot. Characters rule. If you’re altering the character to fit the story, you’re mutilating the character.

JAP: It depends on what you’re doing. In a short story, it’s a closed room. You don’t have to show who they are. In a novel, you do.

JB: In an expanded story world, you give more room for the character to grow.

CB: People change in response to traumatic events. If they stay static, they’re not human. We know what stress does to people. Adjust the plot as you go along. Characters have to change.

Q: People say that there are only a set number of plots. Do you think there are archetypal plots?

CB: No, not while writing.

JB: Joseph Campbell did not write stories. He wrote about them. He didn’t know the process. I’m too busy doing my stuff to think about that. It’s all about people and how they react. It’s human nature.

JAP: You learn the rules so you can break them. It’s only in the back of my head, but not while writing. The real issue about the set number of plots is that it’s a teaching tool. People don’t know there are other stories and variations.

CB: There are stories that satisfy us. Campbell was looking at why they satisfy us. These stories seem real and go beyond the book.

PS: It’s not so much plot as how people react and how they solve their problems.

Q: Do you think death is necessary and central to the plot? I’ve read books where there’s usually a death of a character that we can relate to.

CB: I hope not.

JB: Not essential, but it works.

JAP: Killing a character is part of the toolkit. If you always use it, it becomes predictable. But it’s a powerful tool.

Notes from MisCon 27, Part 1

(To see all my posts on MisCon, including last year’s notes, go here.)

I wasn’t sure whether or not I would have been able to make MisCon this year, but happily I was able to see some of the panels. And yes, I took some notes. I managed to lose my pen at the second panel I attended on Saturday (if you were sitting next to me and were irritated that I was rummaging through my bag like mad for a writing utensil, sorry!), but I was fortunate enough to bump into a friend and bum a pen from her.

In the panel transcriptions, I’m mostly paraphrasing what the panelists said. If there are any errors, they’re mine and mine alone. For any corrections, just drop me a note.

Panel title: Authors, Readers, and Social Media
Panel members: C.J. Cherryh, Jane Fancher, J.A. Pitts, Peter Wacks
Panel description: Let’s discuss social media. What can it do for writers? Readers? What do you expect from your favorite authors on social media? How do new writers learn the best ways to take advantage of social media? Will this trend continue or do you see something new coming along?

JAP: Publishers don’t do marketing. You have to do your own marketing.

JF: Social media has allowed me to meet some of my most supportive fans. The publishers haven’t ever done marketing for me. So you have to do anything you can. The Internet is one way.

Q: What would you prefer–a blog with a few die-hard fans or silence? Sometimes it can become a popularity contest.

JF: If you have a lot of “friends”, sales can go through the roof. It is a popularity contest so in some cases it doesn’t matter if you publish crap.

Q: I’ve posted an average review of a book and the author’s rabid fans down-voted my review to oblivion. It was an average book, so I was open to trying the author’s other books. But the fan base ran me off.

CJC: I’ve seen that operate and it’s not pretty. It also depends on the writing. A certain type of writing will attract a certain type of reader. If it becomes self-exclusive and waterproof, it will seal out any other viewpoint. I don’t like flame wars so I try to avoid politics, religion, etc.

JF: On Amazon, writers can’t post reviews.

JAP: Actually, I’ve been able to post on Amazon. Amazon doesn’t apply it consistently.

PW: If you have a hard core fan base, you should try to shape them. Have them run a Twitter or Tumblr account for you.

JAP: It’s not how many fans you have but who likes your books. You write books to garner more fans.

Q: Do you have a fan page to talk to other fans?

CJC: I have a blog, but I don’t go into the discussion to stifle them. Otherwise if I do say anything, it will become canon and it makes it harder to converse.

PW: Find friends to recruit to help you grow.

CJC: But you have to be careful who you choose. Choose someone who is polite, sensible, good-hearted, and knows what they’re doing.

Q: What’s your impression of the Amazon/Kindle issue?

CJC: I wrote a book on the care of fish and put it on Amazon because my SF base is too small. I haven’t put out my SF stuff because they change the rules all the time. For some projects it’s good. But you still need to get someone to edit your stuff.

JF: I use Amazon to sell my backlist. The worst thing that could happen is if you self-publish a book that is rife with errors. You’ll never live down that reputation if you don’t edit. And don’t rely on your own editing.

JAP: Amazon just bought Goodreads. Which means you can by stuff in people’s recommendations on Goodreads. Reviews will be bleeding from Goodreads to Amazon.

Q: With community building and interacting with the community, have you had any gaffes?

JAP: If it’s on the internet, it’s public. With Facebook, they change policies all the time so what was once private could suddenly become public. Be careful what you post. I post because people seem to like it. And it’s a powerful tool because you can reach people all over the country.

JF: I’m extremely open on my blog. It’s about honesty. My books are about honesty, so if you like me then you might like my books.

CJC: Don’t put anything down that you won’t be willing to face in court. Be kind and circumspect. I wait twenty-four hours before I decide to post anything that I’ve written when angry. But if the fans are behaving badly, you should get on them.

JF: When I was on Compuserve, I once posted a comment on an author’s message board. The fans jumped on me and the author just fanned the flames.

JAP: Some people who do social media right are John Scalzi and Cory Doctorow.

JW: I’ve managed to avoid gaffes. But some really stupid things can be pushed and you have to wonder, why?

Q: Do you ever use social media as a focus group to help you write?

Entire panel: No.

CJC: I don’t use social media for my creative process. I would rather spin my own wheels. There will be loonies out there who would say that you stole their idea.

JF: Only a very special person could help me with the creative process.

PW: Fans don’t want to see how their ideas get written.

JAP: You could open yourself up to lawsuits. It might give me ideas for further research, though.

Q (Deby Fredericks): I do a podcast instead of self-publishing. But the only way I knew people were listening was when someone sent me a response that I posted the wrong link.

JF: We just want to know that someone is reading us. Just come and say, “Hi!” We have statistics to prove that someone is visiting the site.

Q: Tell writers that you enjoy their work.

Q: If I’m the only one to comment, am I being a nuisance?

Entire panel: No.

JF: It tells me that I’m not dead yet.

Q: I think people should only comment when they have something important to say. Otherwise it would devolve into YouTube comments.

JF: You could stop them, but then there are e-mails.

JAP: I once didn’t post for five days because I was really busy. But I got a fan comment wondering if I was okay.

CJC: There are a lot of regulars who visit but don’t necessarily comment. They always check the site to touch base with “family.”

Q: Authors seem to use social media in reverse compared to businesses.

PW: There’s no model for authors to use. Businesses use the broadcaster model. Authors, however, need to interact. The trick is to be honest in your communications. I have 17,000 fans, but I feel it’s a waste. I’ve managed to sell a book without help from social media.

JAP: It’s a time sink.

JF: E-books are convenient, but now they are hard to find among everything else out there.

Q: Someone can write a really insightful blog, but I feel “eh” about it. I would rather watch interviews. Have you done video podcasts?

JW: I’ve done videocasts (not necessarily interviews). With podcasts, once you mention an author, sales spike.

JAP: I have a hater on Twitter. But whenever this person rants about my books, I get a sales spike. I’ve done interview podcasts live. There’s Between the Sheets and Skiffy and Fanty. Someone in Norway once invited me to do a blog post on craft. Someone read that blog post and it led to an invitation to a conference. If you put it out there, assume that someone will read it.

Q: What’s the most important platform?

JAP: Anything you’re comfortable with.

The Ghost in the Net

Note: The following post is where I completely geek out about Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series. The latest book in the series, Heart of Obsidian, is coming out next week. So if you have no interest in the gritty details of world building in paranormal romances or spoilers for the aforementioned series since you haven’t read any of the books yet, it might be a good idea to look away.

* * *

One of the things about the Psy-Changeling series which I think propels it heads and shoulders above many other series in the paranormal romance genre is its success at integrating character with the world building. Sure, you can read it primarily as a romance, but the speculative elements (which are integral to the characters and not face paint) push things into really interesting directions beyond the simple boy-and-girl-fall-in-love story.

The character of the Ghost, to me, is probably one of the most intriguing characters in the series. Up to and including the spoiler chapters posted for Heart of Obsidian, we still don’t know who the Ghost is even though there are clues sprinkled throughout the series. I think most of the clues point in one direction (as Dear Author speculates for one particular character). But not all. And it’s this little bit of uncertainty that’s driving me nuts (in a good way). With most books, I find the answer to mysteries obvious or completely out of left field. Singh’s books keep me guessing even though I know there’s a completely logical explanation.

So, let’s dive into the clues and interesting coincidences:

(Edited to add: a character guide to the series for the confused.)

The Ghost and Kaleb Krychek

The Ghost is a rebel, a saboteur who is a thorn in the Council’s side. He is first introduced in Caressed by Ice. However, we’re introduced to the term “ghost” way back in the first book (Slave to Sensation, 193). Sascha has developed a telepathic shadowing skill called “ghosting” which she uses to cruise the PsyNet as a “ghost”, undetected, to gather information. Later we discover that Kaleb Krychek can also travel this way through the PsyNet. And in fact, he learned this trick by observing Sascha (Blaze of Memory, 160).

When Shoshanna presents the Council with an infected data file, Nikita suggests that it was corrupted by the Ghost (Caressed by Ice, 32). This is the very first mention of the Ghost as an individual in the series. To Nikita, Kaleb immediately replies that the person responsible could be someone else. If Kaleb is the Ghost, is he trying to deflect attention off himself? Kaleb also has a strong motive to destroy the file. The file contained information hacked from the Liu group. Kaleb has a relationship with the Liu group which he does not want to jeopardize. And he considers that particular issue as a “first strike” after reading about Protocol I (Caressed by Ice, 19). The data file was infected by a virus. Nikita, a Tp-Psy, is a known viral transmitter. Everyone knows that Kaleb is a Tk cardinal, but he is also revealed to be a Tp cardinal (Tangle of Need, 335), making it likely that Kaleb is responsible for the destruction of data.

As noted above, Kaleb has an interest in Protocol I. The Ghost is responsible for the destruction of a Protocol I lab. The Ghost is part of the Council’s superstructure with access to classified data, but he is careful not to use data above a certain access level, probably to prevent revealing his identity (Caressed by Ice, 42). Kaleb is part of the Council. Both Kaleb and the Ghost aren’t afraid to kill. The Ghost is skilled in both psychic and physical warfare (Caressed by Ice, 286). So is Kaleb. Both the Ghost (Mine to Possess, 240) and Kaleb are well versed in finding information on the PsyNet.

The Ghost assassinates Marshall Hyde, but he is careful to be in a public location with a minor official to guarantee an alibi (Mine to Possess, 252). As a highly visible member of the Council, even a random doorman recognizes him (Bonds of Justice, 287), it would make sense for Kaleb to be seen at the public location. An Arrow would not need such a public alibi.

While certain things involving innocents and children give the Ghost pause, he is actually focused on something far bigger (Mine to Possess, 182). The Ghost’s plans are meticulous (Kiss of Snow, 364). Kaleb also has meticulous plans (Mine to Possess, 293). The Ghost has been carrying out a particular plan for over 20 years (Ghost chat). Kaleb has also been working on his plans for two decades (Hostage to Pleasure, 48). Later in the series, the Ghost notes that he understands change and that plans could change (Kiss of Snow, 364). Kaleb is also somewhat flexible in his plans as he hasn’t discarded all of his options in pursuit of his goal (Tangle of Need, 144).

Judd suspects that the Ghost wants control of the Net (Play of Passion, 96). Kaleb wants to control the Net (Hostage to Pleasure, 95; Kiss of Snow, 293; Tangle of Need, 144). In fact, he doesn’t like things out of his control in general (Branded by Fire, 41).

The Ghost will do anything to protect the Psy (Branded by Fire, 119). Kaleb finally reveals his dual cardinal powers to Aden and Vasic when he single-handedly saves a section of the Net from total collapse (Tangle of Need, 335).

Faith discovers that an old, hidden crack in the PsyNet is the Ghost (Branded by Fire, 244). Each crack in the PsyNet represents an individual who has flaws in their conditioning. Kaleb also has a large flaw in his conditioning (Heart of Obsidian, chapter 1).

The Ghost grew up in “a cage so tight, so restrictive that he’d almost forgotten how to breathe” (Branded by Fire, 261). Santano Enrique was a sociopath who groomed Kaleb to be his audience (Bonds of Justice, 312). Enrique also trapped Sascha, making her an unwilling audience as he recounted his murders. Enrique applies his trap with pressure and crushing walls (Slave to Sensation, 311).

The Ghost gives Judd information that Arrows taken off Jax are funneled to a facility in the Dinarides (Blaze of Memory, 293). In an earlier scene, Kaleb realizes that he doesn’t have the location where Ming sends Arrows to die, but he knows he can get the information before the day is out (Blaze of Memory, 230).

There is someone that the Ghost cares about. This is implied by the Ghost’s reaction to the fact that Xavier hopes that Nina is alive (Blaze of Memory, 292). When Judd questions the Ghost, he discovers that there is one person the Ghost doesn’t want to die (Play of Passion, 195 and Kiss of Snow, 140). This person is the reason the Ghost doesn’t just destroy the Council and everything else because the person acts as the conscience he doesn’t have (Kiss of Snow, 179). Kaleb has been searching for someone for over six years (Bonds of Justice, 287) and even kills for this person (Bonds of Justice, 311). Kaleb owns a platinum star charm and he wonders “what its owner would make of his thoughts of assassination” (Tangle of Need, 329). This implies that Kaleb thinks of this person as his conscience.

On Twitter, the Ghost states: “you do not want to marry me. I would snap your neck if you touched me wrong.” Sophia notes that Kaleb has many admirers, but that he is “quite capable of snapping his admirers’ necks without the least pause should the occasion call for it” (Bonds of Justice, 66). Judd has an inkling of what the Ghost’s “other matters” are and that if he is right about his guess, the Ghost would become even more dangerous (Play of Passion, 96). It is around this time that the Arrows are considering Kaleb for their leadership.

Judd and Hawke know the Ghost’s identity (Kiss of Snow, 291 and Ghost chat). Judd remarks: “If I am ever taken…my mind is set with triggers that’ll erase your name from my memory banks at a single mental command. Images are more difficult to remove” (Kiss of Snow, 364). As Judd gave Hawke a name and not an occupation, it is highly likely the Ghost is high profile. Like Kaleb. If it was an Arrow, names and images wouldn’t mean as much.

The Ghost comes across a hidden archive of data which he names Obsidian (Kiss of Snow, 180). The book, Heart of Obsidian, is about Kaleb. The Ghost says, “There are places in the Net that belong only to me” (Kiss of Snow, 368). Kaleb can communicate with both the NetMind and the DarkMind that can take him to places other people don’t know about.

The Ghost remarks: “Some things need to be broken to become stronger” (Tangle of Need, 415). For Kaleb: “The fracture had sealed to adamantine hardness, the weak spot morphing into the strongest part of his Silence” (Heart of Obsidian, chapter 1).

The Ghost and Vasic

Just as the Ghost and Kaleb are Tk-Psy with blood on their hands, so is Vasic, an Arrow who claims at his first appearance in the series that he is not a team player (Hostage to Pleasure, 12).

When the Ghost first appears in person in the series, he asks Judd about human and changeling funeral practices (Caressed by Ice, 66). Vasic seeks darkness (Tangle of Need, 39) and is tired of life and just wants peace (Tangle of Need, 249).

The outcome of several of the Ghost’s actions–destruction of Protocol I (Caressed by Ice, 293), finding out who massacred the deer changelings (Caressed by Ice, 302)–result in protecting or avenging innocents, particularly children. We know that Vasic has a soft spot for children (Tangle of Need, 339).

The Ghost doesn’t think that he has a soul (Kiss of Snow, 364). A little later, Vasic remarks that there is nothing left in him to save (Kiss of Snow, 408).

When the Ghost watches Sienna’s mating ceremony, he notes that Sienna’s hair has darkened and after observing Judd ponders that this was not a life he would ever have (Tangle of Need, 100). This implies that the Ghost had seen Sienna when she was younger. Vasic knows that he would never have a life like Judd’s (Tangle of Need, 398). Vasic had also seen Sienna when she was younger (Tangle of Need, 399).

It Could Go Both Ways

The Ghost has been “broken” as a child (Ghost chat). Vasic was broken (Tangle of Need, 339) through Arrow training which starts in childhood. In Kaleb’s records, there are odd gaps starting at seven years old when he was supposedly being trained by Santano Enrique–who turned out to be a serial killer (Caressed by Ice, 306-307).

The Ghost says that Ming will die when the time is right (Ghost chat). Aden says that Ming will die when he needs to die (Tangle of Need, 247). It is possible that he is also voicing Vasic’s opinion since they have a subconscious telepathic connection (Kiss of Snow, 33). On the other hand, both Vasic and Aden are tentatively under Kaleb’s leadership. Kaleb also has similar thoughts: “That left Ming and Tatiana. Both would have to die when it was time” (Tangle of Need, 329).

Vasic also notes toward the end of Tangle of Need that his reaction to Sienna, not precisely Sienna herself, was what helped him survive through the years. There is no mention of any other women in Vasic’s life. On the other hand, the Ghost is bonded to a woman, but that woman is the only one to whom he is loyal and will keep him from carrying out his plans (Ghost chat). Similarly, Kaleb has been obsessively trying to find a woman throughout the series and have been doing things for her.

The Ghost does not have a tattoo (Ghost chat), but is this just semantics? Kaleb has a mark on his arm that is branded on him (Mine to Possess, 293). It is never mentioned whether or not Vasic has a tattoo, but he does have a computronic gauntlet fused to his left arm (Tangle of Need, 41).

* * *

So, if you’ve also read the Psy-Changeling series, who do you think the Ghost is? Kaleb? Vasic? Someone else? As Singh’s world building and characterization has been extremely consistent so far, I would tend toward the logical choice. But you never know. I’d love to hear from fellow fans who think I’ve missed a clue or two.

Addictive Reading

I’ve been recently pondering about what makes certain books “cracktastic”–books that people can’t help read once they start. Books that make some people, literally, into foaming-at-the-mouth fanatics. Is it because of the subject matter? The last time I was at a bookstore, I overheard some ladies raving about some “very steamy” novels. But are all cracktastic novels about sex? Despite the fact that the current zeitgeist is all about erotic novels, I don’t think so. Twilight and The Da Vinci Code are considered cracktastic by many readers, but they are in completely different genres. Are cracktastic books necessarily badly written? Well, no. During Charles Dickens’ lifetime, people were devouring his writing like hot cakes. Are popular books synonymous with cracktastic books? Not necessarily. The Great Gatsby is popular and much loved, but one would hardly call it cracktastic. And on the flip side, I’m sure there are obscure books that are cracktastic for a small subset of readers.

So, it doesn’t particularly matter what the book is about or how it’s written. Or even if anyone else is reading it. But the term “cracktastic” does have a negative connotation, implying that the reading material in question is bad yet addictive. Some people seem to use it as an excuse. That they can’t just help themselves reading it. That if they had the will power, they wouldn’t be reading it. Personally, I find it a bit sad that some people are too embarrassed to admit that they like reading about X or Y without qualifiers.

What does make for a cracktastic book then? I think a cracktastic book pushes a button (or a series of buttons) hard enough and long enough that it engages the lizard brain which swamps whatever objective thoughts we’ve had before. Call it emotion or instinct or gut feeling or curiosity. Whatever it is, it’s a hook that never lets go. Any writer who wishes to share their work probably hopes that their writing has some of this elusive quality. Some work hard to achieve it. Others stumble upon it accidentally. But most will never find it although that doesn’t mean that their books aren’t good. There are a number of authors I enjoy reading (and re-reading) but they just haven’t managed to push that particular button which tips me over the edge from favorite and loyal to absolute obsession.

(What I also want to make clear, though, is that you can never assume that what people read–and especially what sort of supposedly cracktastic stuff they read–defines who they are. Few would consider books heavy in life philosophy to be truly cracktastic. Unless it’s an Ayn Rand doorstopper. It could probably crack someone’s head open if wielded properly.)

“Cracktastic” is a really subjective term. What somebody else considers cracktastic, I may think is mediocre. And vice versa. From my observations, for most people, something becomes cracktastic because it pushes one single button really well. For me, several buttons usually must be pushed at one time or it’s going to be a no-go. It must be written in a style I enjoy, with an emotionally engaging storyline, non-stupid characters, impeccable world building, and exquisite tension which makes me keep turning pages even though it’s already two in the morning. Note that I said usually. Depending on my mood–or just where I am in life–different things push those buttons. For example, I am quite positive that the Harry Potter series would have been cracktastic for me if it had come out when I was younger and less widely read in the fantasy genre. But it came out later when I was already bored with all the stories about wizard schools.

Sure, it might make for a frustrating time if you can’t find anyone else who is as rabid about the same books as you are. But I think it’s a good thing that not everyone finds the same story cracktastic. Otherwise, publishers would only be looking for one thing and there would be only one kind of writer getting published. And while readers lament even now about the lack of diversity in the literary marketplace, it would be even worse if there was just one formula for making a hit book.