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Tag: Deby Fredericks

Notes from MisCon 27, Part 7

(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: The Role of Religion in Science Fiction/Fantasy
Panel members: David Boop, Deby Fredericks, Joyce Reynolds-Ward, Peter Wacks
Panel description: This Sunday morning we’ll talk about religion’s role in scifi/fantasy. Is it necessary? Can you write a society and not have religion? How do you make a religion? What do you research? Where do you begin? Join us to learn the ins and outs of religion in genre writing.

PW: I leave out rants about religion from social media, etc. But it does bleed into my writing. How does it bleed into writing?

DF: Religion is often used as an antagonist in SFF. In real life there are skeptics and deniers of climate change who base their beliefs on religion. These get slapped down, but we should also be respectful. Shoot at people’s beliefs advisedly.

PW: Or be offensive about everything like South Park.

JRW: Consistency matters. Conservatives and Protestants are not the same as Catholics, Lutherans, etc. American bishops aren’t the same as the Vatican. Some of us are wired for religion. Some do religion and sci-fi well, like Russell’s The Sparrow. Orson Scott Card incorporates religion into what he writes. The biggest issue is that many write from an outsider’s perspective and don’t get into the internal battles and dialog. Poorly written, it’s just ritual and evil clergy.

DB: It’s not necessarily what the media says but what they portray. The stories should deal with redemption, crisis of faith, and facing one’s fears. The cliche evil religion is too obvious.

DF: That’s why people use churches and cults. These organizations have resources like the government. They have many members and bases to provide a continual source of conflict. While a small group of bandits can be wiped out in one go.

DB: It’s descended from the Cold War generation, where everyone suspected everyone else. You can compare the country to a religion. But there are shades and different levels. Example: Game of Thrones.

JRW: Religion fuels the believers. There are explicit rituals for particular purposes. For the fanatics, it’s the rationale of true believers. An example is Frank Herbert’s Dune.

DF: Members of a criminal gang will likely yield at the end. But religious followers are less likely to surrender. These are different kinds of fight.

PW: I started from a hopeful place. That faith in itself could change worlds and universes. People get caught up in the bad side of the coin. Is there a good side?

JRW: The best stuff doesn’t proselytize. It presents how it affects the character.

PW: How do you write without religion?

DF: Anne McCaffrey didn’t plan for religion on Pern. Is this realistic? We look for patterns in everything. We want to control unknown events.

PW: Lack of faith is a religion.

DB: In society, we can’t escape religion. At some point, someone wants power. The quickest way to get it is to say that you are ordained by God. And there are people with delusions of grandeur.

JRW: It taps into an emotional resonance in the brain. I believe some people are hardwired for faith.

DB: As an author, you can research and explore other worlds and religions to at least understand some of their motivations.

PW: How much of your writing is taking the world in and preaching it out? Do morals come out of the book or just a character on a soapbox?

DF: We all write our own belief. But we must also be aware of the audience. They don’t want religion and don’t want to deal with that. So you give them what they want. Religion can be part of world building. Use religion as set dressing rather than preaching.

JRW: Everything we write reflects our own morals and ethics but we have to be careful promoting one thing. The audience isn’t friendly towards preaching. Be nuanced.

DB: I make sure the voice in the story is the character and not me. I’m careful that what the character preaches is not necessarily what I would preach. Transcend your own belief. Otherwise it’s the same character all the time. Every character is different. Make it clear that it’s fiction.

JRW: Sometimes I’m seduced by a character. One of my recent characters is a woman who becomes a goddess but is unlikeable in some ways.

Q: For most people, religion gives them answers they don’t have to understand. Is this valuable in real life?

DB: Lewis Black said that religion is used to keep people in line. Some people just want to be told what to do.

PW: It’s useful in defining societies in SFF. For instance, in a generation ship, they may need faith and trust. It defines societal ethics.

JRW: It’s used as a support structure, social structure.

DF: It helps in sharing resources in a disaster.

PW: In Good Omens, they shared cookies. It’s a standard.

Q: How do you develop your own religion? How hard is it dealing with all the different facets?

DB: I took a look at the current progression of religion and tried to see what would happen in the future. I decided that everyone agrees that there’s a god and removed the dogma.

JRW: In my fantasy story, I have seven gods that did battle. They’re modeled on Greek mythology.

Q: With faith and religion, is faith in a person or is it in a religion?

PW: It’s only when many people have the same faith that you get a religion.

DF: And they have it at the same intensity.

JRW: Religion has ritual, structure, and protocols.

PW: Religion needs a divinity. Although now we say that media/capitalism is a religion.

DF: Capitalism is about commerce, not personalities. Religion needs a personality. Although now, corporations are trying to be seen as individuals.

PW: There are personalities that represent commercial media, so it’s getting dangerously close to becoming a religion.

Q: How easy is it to write a galaxy-spanning self destructive cult or religion?

PW: It depends on the quality of writing.

DB: Write about it if it is needed for the character to change. If the character changes too easily without a challenge, it’s not interesting. If the cult/religion is just use as flavoring, it doesn’t add to the story so it should be cut.

JRW: You can’t write a galaxy-spanning cult because it will splinter and there’s the problem of communication.

DB: An example of a galaxy-spanning cult is in the trilogy The Damned by Alan Dean Foster.

DF: As writers, we need to grab a common trope to get rolling. When revising, we need to flesh things out. Use something that is unique. Even if you use a cult, find something about it that makes it unique and a surprise.

Notes from MisCon 27, Part 6

(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: Writer: Oppress Thyself
Panel members: Brenda Carre, Deby Fredericks, Manny Frishberg, Andrea Howe
Panel description: Get some advice on proofreading, editing, and cleaning up your stories. Learn to crush your exposition, oppress your repetition, and make your punctuation orderly and efficient.

AH: Do you have any pet peeves?

BC: People try to self-edit too much at the beginning. They never get anywhere when they’re constantly tripping over the editor.

MF: The misuse of less and fewer. The use of triage as choose. It’s supposed to be a medical term. The use of commas.

DF: I don’t like that writers think that punctuation and grammar don’t matter. If you’re doing this as a profession, you should adhere to the standards. Look for an English course. Read a lot. Study your favorite authors and write out a page. Hold yourself to a higher standard. I don’t like writers with an ordinary idea who present it as a new idea. You need to distinguish yourself. Some talk that execution matters more than the idea. For example, in Bunnicula, the cat mistakes a stake for a steak. It’s on you to catch these things.

AH: It’s a writer’s first impression. If you can’t spell or punctuate, then it’s like showing up to a wedding in cutoffs. They’d throw you out of the wedding. Your book will end up in the trash. No one is going to read the story if they’re blinded by mistakes. But don’t let it stifle creativity. On your first draft, if you start cutting things out, it’s a waste of time. Your goal is to finish.

MF: As a freelance magazine writer, you submit a query letter. These first pages is like a job application. If you screw it up, you won’t get the job.

BC: Be aware of correct word usage. Certain words convey certain ideas. Get a really good thesaurus. It’s the lead avenue to word usage. Have a reference in hand.

MF: Mark Twain had some advice, that the difference between the right and the almost right word is like lightning and the lightning bug.

AH: Use a dictionary to get the correct meaning.

DF: It’s like a “cornucopia of trees.” It doesn’t make sense because cornucopia has a certain connotations. Say what you mean to say.

AH: What references you you recommend?

BC: The Transitive Vampire and The Well Tempered Sentence.

MF: Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses, The Guardian‘s article on the responses of twenty-seven editors for writing rules.

AH: The Gregg Reference Manual. It has an example of everything.

DF: Google.

MF: AP Stylebook.

AH: For a novel, use The Chicago Manual of Style. English keeps changing. It’s a living entity.

DF: If you don’t keep up with the change, only few people will read your stuff because it’s not current.

BC: Look at an old dictionary. You’ll find everyday words back then have become archaic. The usage of “lie”, “lay”, and “laid” have changed.

MF: Use “few” if you want discrete numbers that you can count. Use “less” if it’s general. There’s also ’til and until. Till has started showing up in pop publications.

AH: I object to people switching back and forth on the rules. Pick one rule and stick with it.

DF: I hate “impact” used as a verb.

BC: Or “source.”

Q: I view A (space) B and AB as different. But some people don’t. For example, every day and everyday.

AH: I see that on store hours. I post “grammar in the wild” on Facebook. It makes me want to correct the signs. My aunt actually corrected signs.

BC: I once saw in a Sydney paper, “intersection between May and November.”

Q: What about “looking to” as an encompassing term? Like “looking to go to school” or “looking to publish a book”? I see it everywhere.

MF: In this country, there’s mass communication. Lots of regional quirks become national. And it will seem wrong to people who grew up elsewhere.

DF: Some of them are in vogue.

BC: There’s a mapping project on those regionalisms. I also saw a YouTube video of the dialogue of different eras. You may change word usage if it reflects the character. But that does not change the punctuation.

AH: There are some people who deliberately misspell to show a character’s ignorance even though it’s pronounced the same. Keep the weird dialects out.

MF: Long sections in dialect–editors hate that.

Q: In eastern Idaho, the adverb is an endangered species. People say “good” or “drive safe”–they take off the -ly. It seems like a regional thing.

AH: It’s spreading.

Q: Do you put your manuscript away for a while before you look for mistakes?

BC: Yes. I’ve put one manuscript away for six years.

MF: I put away the first short story I wrote for twenty years. Mostly for emotional distance. Usually it’s for a few months. Then you can look at it as writing rather than your baby.

BC: But it’s a good idea to finish the story first before putting it away or you will lose the momentum. It will be more difficult to finish later.

Q: In various writer groups I’ve been in, it’s drilled in that we should get rid of adjectives and adverbs.

MF: No rules of grammar or composition are absolute. Excessive use may be a problem.

AH: It’s everything in moderation. You only break the rules for emphasis.

Q: What tricks do you use to break out of saying the same thing over and over again?

DF: Find a different way of saying it.

MF: Use metaphor.

BC: Use a different structure.

AH: Add dialog.

MF: Some people use adverbs in dialog tags. It’s almost always a beginner’s mistake. How the character feels should be reflected in what they say. With few exceptions, use “said” because it’s mostly invisible. Unique dialog tags sound awful.

DF: Attribution can be confused if the sentence is badly put together. Then you don’t know who is talking. Make it clear who is speaking. You can change gender if it gets confusing with two male or two female characters.

BC: Beware dangling participles and modifiers. In Lord of the Rings, there’s one sentence when read aloud sounds weird. “Bill stood beside the pony sucking his teeth.”

MF: If you read it aloud, you will catch mistakes. A friend was reading a short story about Lewis and Clark and there was a dog named Seaman. There was a sentence: “Seaman erupted from the bushes.”

AH: If you’re tripping over it, the reader probably will too.

Q: When I read my stories, I only see the edit in my head and skip over it on the page. Do you have a trick to see the mistakes?

MF: Read it aloud, slowly, with your mind focused on grammar rather than the story. Read half of the lines backwards. It makes you look at the words.

BC: There’s a difference looking at it on the computer versus the hard copy.

Q: Have someone else read it aloud to you.

Q: What do you think about the trend in literature for using present tense?

AH: I don’t like it. It’s harder to process. But The Hunger Games uses it. Anything is possible.

MF: They started using present tense in magazine writing about twelve or fourteen years ago. Consistency matters–switching present and past tense will jar the reader.

DF: We all have an inner critic or support system that tells you that you can’t do it. Find it in yourself to overcome the criticism and don’t let the doubts oppress you.

A Writer-centric View of SpoCon 2012, Part 3

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.

Previous posts: Part 1 and Part 2


(Left to right: Erik Scott de Bie, Muffy Morrigan, Deby Fredericks, Cthulhu Bob, and Vicki Mitchell)

The “Creating Mystery” Panel: Sprinkle in clues and build tension without giving it all away: learn the art of creating mystery in your writing or GMing. The panelists were Erik Scott de Bie, Muffy Morrigan, Deby Fredericks, Cthulhu Bob, and Vicki Mitchell. (AQ is an audience question.)

CB: What is mystery? Fundamentally, it’s something that you don’t know. Something you have an interest in knowing. It implies some curiosity and some vague awareness. When you’re creating mystery, you need to know the answer. It’s not clever when you also do not know. You need to have the allusion to whoever or whatever it is and hook the reader, audience, or gamer to generate intrigue.

MM: In creating mystery, you need to know yourself. Sometimes I’m reading something and a character appears out of nowhere making it obvious that the author didn’t know what he was doing. Every book has a mystery. It leads the readers along. Do it in a way that you don’t talk down to the reader.

DF: The solution needs to be clued in the first chapter, even if it is veiled. Keep that so you will use it later.

ESdB: It’s important to have clues whether it’s a fantasy or game. Some readers will want to solve the mystery, so you need to give them clues. If you don’t, you’re a jerk to lead them on. It’s okay to misdirect, but you can’t actively hide things from the reader unless you give clues where it’s hidden.

CB: It’s gratifying as a reader when I find the link. It’s the aha! moment.

MM: Engage the reader, otherwise it becomes an over-your-shoulder book.

DF: I’m always afraid that I will be too predictable and that they will figure out too soon and get bored. So take it a step beyond the obvious solution. Even if the guilty person is who you think it is going to be, have more to the story. I had a story where a prince was killing other princes and my husband figured it out. So I made the prince a doppelganger.

ESdB: One technique is to layer mysteries by hiding many things. The reader only thinks there’s one, so they get sidetracked and surprised by a second revelation. In my dungeon crawl book, people get killed and you figure out there’s one traitor. But there’s also a second traitor.

CB: In a book, it’s cool. But a game with two traitors? No.

ESdB: It depends on the group.

DF: Sometimes a person comes in late in the game so you make them a bad guy. But you need to have a really together group otherwise there will be hurt feelings. Being angry might be effective as a villain. Or they might think others are mashing them.

MM: Don’t have a really likeable character who beheads the rest of the group at the end. It betrays the reader. I have read books where a likeable character did bad things at the end. And there was no hint that they were bad. Kill everyone or have a latte.

ESdB: A good way to diffuse the situation, if you want a likeable character to be the villain, is don’t let motivation to be killing all the other heroes. Instead, kill the princess who others are trying to rescue. Manipulating them to do bad things makes good drama. Villains aren’t entirely evil, they have motivations, and it’s not necessarily to kill everyone. The villain can be a friend but then goes his separate way.

DF: It’s the Long John Silver effect.

MM: You have the opportunity to build the path, so establish at the start that the character is bad.

DF: Have the character kick the puppy or whip the horse to show the cruelty within them.

VM: It’s planting the seeds that they are villains. Almost every story is a mystery of some sort where you figure out what happens. Is the hero going to succeed and how are they going to succeed? You need to plant clues subtly and keep seeding them throughout. Don’t necessarily make them important. Put them as part of the scenery, part of equipment, maybe something his grandmother gave him that turns out to be a powerful artifact.

ESdB: But you need to hint at it. Maybe it’s sparkling indicating it’s enchanted.

AQ: How do you put enough clues and make sure it’s not obvious?

DF: It’s like the hidden objects game on Facebook. You don’t know what to look for until you have all the clues. Don’t have just one detail. Have several.

MM: List out all the things you need and then build things around them. Embellish them.

VM: Characters don’t act with one motivation. Have one key action. You can also misdirect the reader and build the character and scene at the same time.

ESdB: If you really want just one clue, that’s fine. It’s fine to be obvious. But not necessarily “how” it’s obvious. Suppose you know the hair is from the killer and you need to find the killer. But then you figure out it’s from dog that had contact with the killer.

DF: You could send it to the lab, but lab has a fire.

MM: Or the lab tech replaces the hair with someone else’s hair.

AQ: How can setting raise the bar on mystery?

VM: Sometimes the clues are part of the setting. Don’t just show the clue. Also show other parts of the setting. Point out furniture other than the important object. Build it into the story.

CB: Say you have an idea for a one-shot gaming scenario as a murder mystery. For imagery, have a house and populate it with stuff the house will have and decide step-by-step what occurred. What trail would that leave? Also have other little things like a pulled plug, adjusted frame, changed clock, a latte.

DF: Use the scenery and setting for mood. In the story, it could seem innocuous. What is plausible is that the character wouldn’t realize what it’s used for. But don’t have cute bunnies in a serious detective novel. Unless they’re not so cute bunnies.

MM: For your setting and the world you’re building, any book you’re writing you’re creating a universe and characters need to be developed. Don’t have Bugs Bunny moving but the background remaining static. The setting should also be a character so the reader will want to return to the world.

ESdB: If it’s a science fiction or fantasy setting, take into account difference of cultures and how people will work. Say everyone is mildly telepathic. How can we not know who killed someone if everyone’s connected? How someone managed to block everyone else from knowing would be interesting.

DF: Some use a point of view where the reader won’t know everything. If you have a long work, have multiple viewpoints. If you’re trying to give the reader information that the character doesn’t know, use another viewpoint. Have a treasure hunter find the Rosetta Stone rather than the prof who would solve it immediately. With another viewpoint you also have a choice, and it gives the reader more clues of what is normal and what is not.

ESdB: You can have conflicting points of view. Maybe the characters focus on different things on the Rosetta Stone. Or have the characters all be right, but right in different ways. If all the characters have the same mind, then they all unravel. Each of the characters can have a piece of clue, but it doesn’t make it a mystery where everything could be solved if the characters just talked to each other.

CB: In military history, you find a lot of arrogant jerks who can’t work together.

ESdB: It doesn’t make sense to have characters who are friends not talking to each other. If enemies have to work together, there’s tension. If Muffy and I are roommates and Muffy knows that there’s a latte at the scene of the crime and I know the guy who likes lattes, but we don’t talk to each other, that’s a stupid story.

MM: You could make it work if there’s a miscommunication where one person thinks it’s coffee and the other thinks it’s latte, but don’t make the reader think it’s stupid.

AQ: How do you pace mystery with action?

ESdB: It needs to unfold gradually through the course of the book. Solve it at the end or where appropriate. It depends on the story. If you have characters hanging out in a coffee shop, don’t make any progress until they put the clues together to solve it. They can collect the clues. Or you can have action first and then collect clues. Generally, do it gradually.

MM: As a writer, you have it outlined. You may be tempted to pace it faster since you know what’s happening, so scale it back.

CB: Be wary of tedium. Be gradual but don’t make readers fall asleep. A cliffhanger can keep them reading at 2 am.

DF: Pacing is controlling the speed of the chapter. I’m not a fan of R.L. Stine, but I ended up reading him to my kids. I learned that Stine ends almost every chapter on a cliffhanger. Read Stine to look at his pacing since he is in total control of that. He never has a quiet moment at the end of the chapter.

AQ: We’re accustomed to drawn out explanations and villain monologues. Should we explain everything or not?

ESdB: You shouldn’t explain everything. The reader should have an aha! moment where they finally get it. Maybe explain a little bit but not info dump.

DF: Give the reader stuff to figure it out things themselves, but they don’t have to figure out everything. Keep some surprises in the end.

MM: It depends on mystery and other genres. I once read a story about Ireland where an author explains things for seven pages. Don’t have long monologues. Have it obvious enough so readers can go along, but also have the aha! moment. Don’t do The Speckled Band in Sherlock Holmes.

ESdB: Be careful of the Sherlock Holmes thing where everything is explained at the end. But the current BBC show is better because the audience can make leaps at the same time as Sherlock does. String evidence through the book. That makes it have good rereading value.

MM: You can also have that in movies. You want readers to read your stuff again and again.

AQ: Is there a difference in stringing it out in a game or a story? Is one more obvious?

CB: In a game, it’s maybe a bit more obvious since the gamer is both character and reader. The reader just reads through book. The GM may assume the players know too much.

DF: The game mechanics built in will help guide them, like the perception roll.

ESdB: It’s a unique challenge. Players can stumble onto something that you won’t want them to know, so leave yourself escape hatches if you’re running intrigue. You can make the informant suddenly die.

AQ: What are your favorite mysteries?

MM: Lynda S. Robinson who wrote Murder in the Place of Anubis. It takes place in the time of King Tut. She’s good at giving you all the clues. I’m also a Holmesian but it’s also frustrating. Most mysteries are not mysteries but something within stories. My first experience was writing Holmes fan fic. The BBC series does it better.

DF: They have the advantage of a hundred odd years of stuff written that expands it. Doyle didn’t know he was starting something that big.

ESdB: I like true crime stories and some are great, like The Innocent Man by John Grisham. It seems impossible that he committed the crime, so you follow the evidence. There’s great buildup of tension. You can go to Wikipedia to see what happened, but the novel is effective.

MM: Whatever world you’re building, you want readers to take the next step and not throw the book over their shoulder. You want the readers with you while building mystery. Engaged people are involved in the world even if they know the ending.

DB: Possibly my favorite mystery is Fallen with Denzel Washington. If you like horror, it’s a smart story.

ESdB: it’s older, but it holds up well.

MM: It’s like a mini master class on mystery.

AQ: What about an RPG game when an actual session is being played?

DF: I was once in a gaming group with a player who was a thief who took things. The GM got tired of it, so had him take this item. The thief picked it up and tried to handle it. It was a dagger of monster summoning. Each time he took it up, the monster power went up. Eventually he summoned a nazgul. Another player figured it out and knocked the nazgul into the sea. Which resulted in a tidal wave that swept the thief’s treasure cave out to sea.

ESdB: Readers and gamers have the impulse to have things fair, so that’s important to keep in mind for intrigue. If good people get killed, they want the bad guys to get theirs.

* * *

Stay tuned for Part 4, a world building panel.

A Peek into MisCon 26, Part 16

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.

Previous posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9. Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15

The first Monday (5/28) session I went to was a panel called “Publishing Options Today.” It was attended by S.A. Bolich, Margaret Bonham, Darryl Branning, and Deby Fredericks. (AQ is an audience question.) Note: While it seems to me that the big publishers aren’t particularly swimming in roses and rainbows right now, I felt that this panel was more biased towards small publishers and self-publishing–seeing that there was no one from the big houses on the panel to offer a counter viewpoint.

DF: I’ve done podcasting. It’s do-it-yourself.

SAB: Or self-publishing.

DB: It’s harder to break into big publishing.

MB: Big publishers are still looking for things, but it’s getting tighter and tighter. They’re run by marketing, not the editors. So it will come down to the marketing. They’re looking for the next bestseller.

AQ: What’s midlist?

MB: Midlist is when you sell between 5,000 and 80,000 copies. For non-fiction, it’s lower. If you’re not hitting the bestseller lists, they don’t want you. For smaller publishers, they may keep you but you will have to change your name. If your second book doesn’t do well, they will drop you. In a month, maybe one in a thousand people might get published by a big publisher. Even less than that actually break even. And less than that become best sellers.

SAB: But don’t get discouraged. I started in slush and got turned down at the last minute at three publishers. It may be because of the competition or the subject isn’t hot or your story is unclassifiable. That’s why you should go to a small press if it’s unclassifiable. Because the big publishers don’t know how to sell it.

AQ: What are the submission requirements?

MB: I do get some odd queries, but I give them a benefit of a doubt. The guidelines say I want established writers, but that’s used as a gatekeeper. You could say that we met at this con and I’d be more likely to look at it. Cons can also help you meet agents and editors.

SAB: It’s not guaranteed but it’s possible to get through the door that way.

DF: If they see you talking, they will notice. They want an author with a great presence to speak for their publishing house.

MB: Are you willing to market your books? Most houses don’t pay for that in their budget. So you need to bust your ass to promote your book whether it’s published by a New York house or self-published. A bestseller is usually over 80,000 copies sold to customers.

AQ: What if your initial run is 10,000 books. What’s the time span for you to sell out?

MB: It varies from house to house. For romance it’s about one to two months. Three months if you’re selling greater than 80,000 copies. And some by six months.

SAB: Hardback has a longer arc since it’s one year until the paperback. For the paperback, you’re only saving shelf space.

AQ: In a bookstore, they only keep books on the shelves for 90 days.

MB: If you’re really good, a hardback will sell 35,000 copies or more.

AQ: So basically you have to sell 10,000 copies per month or you’re out.

MB: Yes.

AQ: How do you interest the publisher with the next book?

SAB: By earning out your advance.

MB: They will profit from you before you earn out your advance. But a good sign is if you do earn out the advance. You have to push your books for three months or you’re gone. If you have good sales, then you could maybe stretch it out longer. Most books sell only 500 copies.

AQ: But what if you sell 10,000 to 20,000 copies over a lifetime?

MB: But that’s for non-fiction. Some non-fiction sit six months or more on the shelf before they’re sold. But they’re usually on “evergreen” topics (like books about dogs). Fiction is not evergreen. It’s entertainment. It’s like movies. Movies are in theaters for two weeks and then they’re gone.

SAB: E-publishing is a whole other industry. You never go out of print with e-books. And it gives you a chance to build an audience over years rather than weeks.

DF: The expense is more for a print book, but even for e-books, you still have to pay for staff salaries and office rent. There’s lots of back and forth on what the price of an e-book should be.

SAB: For e-books, you still need an editor and a cover designer. You need to send it to reviewers and there are other people who are supporting the book.

AQ: The publishers used to use other distributors, but now they let Amazon do it.

DF: Well, Amazon puts restrictions on what you can charge. And there’s also Google scanning all the books and putting them out for free.

AQ: So can you sell directly from the author?

DF: You may still need to pay for staff.

SAB: You can set up your own server.

MB: E-books are a different paradigm. You can use contract people and offer a bigger percentage. For a big house, it’s 9-11% For a paperback, it’s 7-8%.

AQ: How do you avoid a small percentage? Don’t they have bad marketers since they basically don’t do anything?

MB: The marketers get into mass distribution.

DF: The big publishers have an editorial staff through which books go through the process of being vetted. For e-publishing, the editor is often not there, thus all the typos. Authors are now aware of this, but there’s still a bad perception about e-publishing. So big publishers are still seen as purveyors of quality.

MB: How many people actually look at the publisher? Most don’t.

DF: As a reader, you trust that you’re getting your money’s worth from a big publisher.

MB: Small and medium publishers do have staff.

DB: You might need to pay for an editor if the first paragraph is filled with typos. For that, readers will give you a one star review and won’t look past the first page. If you don’t have a support system, try social media sites. But if you advertise, you will annoy people. Although there are some people who say that if you’re not annoying people, you’re not doing enough.

AQ: If I get spam all the time from a person, I won’t forward it.

DF: For social networking, you can do as little or as much as you want. You can alternate talking about your kids getting braces and your publication dates. You can chain your Facebook, Twitter, and blog together so if you publish a post in one, it will publish it in the rest at the same time.

AQ: I like authors who listen and meet people rather than just blasting everyone with marketing.

SAB: Sometimes I forget to respond to someone on Twitter.

DF: Twitter on my cell phone can be bothersome. But I will check it once per day.

SAB: You have to be careful about social networking. You should enjoy it first. I like Facebook but not Twitter. If you do five hundred different things, you’ll have no time and it won’t be fun. Pick and choose where to build your following.

AQ: You can do short story marketing by writing more stories. Or put your work up on the internet for comments–but you need to develop a thick skin. How do people calculate net with big and small publishers? Can you lose money even if you’re doing well?

MB: There’s a certain percentage of net royalty. For my company, we offer 50% net. So when a book is sold, 50% goes to the author and 50% goes to the publisher to pay for the cover and editing. It can be paid out quarterly or biannually. The publisher can also do hold backs, when the bookstore sends back unsold books with their covers torn off. If you calculate per title, it will be different. You might get a higher net profit from Amazon than a bookstore where the author and publisher might have to split $1.50. If it gets sold directly at a con, it might be $4 or $5.

AQ: What if it’s from a big publisher?

MB: 10 to 30 cents.

SAB: For a hardback, the author gets very little.

AQ: Does a slush author get less than an established author?

MB: It’s sometimes true. It depends on the agent who actually works for the publisher.

AQ: Does Amazon put restrictions?

MB: Yes and no. There are no restrictions. However, if you join Kindle Select, for 90 days you can’t sell any other place, but you’re allowed to borrow and there are free days. But there are ways to get around that.

DF: How much do you charge for self-published work? Since I had a young adult book, I considered the fact that kids don’t have money of their own so I decided to give it away. And hopefully later they may buy my other books.

SAB: A marketing strategy is to give away a free sample. And hopefully that will lead them to buy more expensive stuff. It’s a hook.

DF: But there are expenses. So the cost of self-publishing is not for free. When I did podcasting myself, it cost $35 for the copyright. You have to assess your own budget.

SAB: One downside of this is that people start to expect free stuff. Some people think that all content should be free. But an author needs to make a living. So “free” is not necessarily a great way to market for everyone.

AQ: Editors usually make books readable. I’ve heard horror stories of books getting rushed out with no copy editing. Why are people rushing? Is it because they’ve cut the staff?

SAB: Some just don’t pay attention to grammar.

DB: There are some blogs that do book reviews and they will say what errors are in the book. I heard about an author who started arguing with a reviewer and used profanity.

SAB: That’s the worst thing for an author to do.

MB: It looks very bad.

DF: The editorial staff has been cut significantly. For instance, in children’s fiction publishing, the very best editor was let go. The publishers think that anyone can do editing so they hire a 22-year-old intern. The editors who are left have less experience and have no chops to debate with marketing.

AQ: What about side income?

DF: I have three books from a small press, but I get a little side income from school visits. It pays for the fee to do the podcast. Be personable so you can be invited to speak to teachers and at cons. Decide where to spend the money. Income may not necessarily come from book sales.

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Stay tuned for Part 17 which is a panel on urban fantasy.

A Peek into MisCon 26, Part 15

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.

Previous posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9. Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14

The panel “Conquering Writer’s Block” was presented by Eldon Thompson. Remarks were also made by J.A. Pitts, Deby Fredericks, and Peter Orullian. (AQ is an audience question.)

ET: George R. R. Martin puts writers as either gardeners or architects. Most writers, about 99%, are gardeners. Most writer’s block is due to lack of preparation, insufficient plotting, unruly characters, vague setting, or an unclear theme. Insufficient plotting comes down to insufficient outlining. You should do whatever works for you. On the macro level, you need the major moments. Most people know their beginning but not so much the midpoint. I would recommend looking at story structure books. Why? Because you need to know what the maximum impacts are at certain parts in the story. You need to reverse engineer it. Pick major moments and use them as manageable chunks. Then set the obstacles.

ET: In Hollywood, there’s more structure. You need to advance the plot every ten minutes. However, you don’t need to be married to your outline. You can sketch it out. There are people who refuse to outline–like Tami Hoag who writes thriller mysteries. She says that it’s not fun to write if she already knows who did it. But you don’t want to trick the reader so you need to plan out how to misdirect and plant clues. To prevent boredom, you need to build conflict in every scene. If you know the big strokes, you can then focus on the details.

ET: Can you avoid unruly characters? I don’t think so. Terry Brooks viewed characters as trying out for roles. If the character doesn’t fit the role, then you either rewrite the role, kick the character out and stick to the role, or try to force the character into the role. If you’re tugged into a different direction, trust your instinct. You need to know your character well. Who they are. What they want. Where, when, why. These are things you know in the back of your head. Elizabeth George says it’s pathological behavior. You need to know how they will respond if the character doesn’t get what they want. You need conflict in every scene, even if it is subtle. If you can’t find the conflict, stage it differently.

ET: For vague setting, it is the easiest to skimp. Setting sets the tone. If there are arctic waters, it might be murder mystery. You might set a horror story in a remote camp. Science fiction and fantasy settings are critical whether they’re real or imagined. Avoid dinner scenes. Static scenes are not as dramatic. Phone calls are easy in reality but they’re not as exciting. In Star Wars, you had light saber fight scenes in strange settings like lava. The opening in Empire Strikes Back was an ice world. If you use geography, setting can dictate plot points and conflict. One example is in fantasy where you have different questing groups that need to meet at a particular place and time. You need challenges for your characters–swimming, freezing, falling, etc.–don’t make it easy on them.

ET: If you have problems with theme, did you lose track of the emotional core of the story? Did you even have one in the first place? Revisit the premise often. Figure out how you want to express it. The character objective is not the same as the author objective. For fiction, don’t preach. Relay the viewpoint. Listen to the subconscious because it will tell you where to go. If something feels wrong, it is because it is. You need patience if there are no deadlines. Stop, look at things at different angles. Look at all the facets. If it’s hard to see it in a linear fashion, turn it over and over. You can also use the avoidance technique–do something else first to free your mind.

JAP: Sometimes if you have writer’s block, you may need to fix your life first. I had a friend with writer’s block, but it was because he had dying relatives. For others, it was cancer treatments. Don’t beat yourself up about your writing when it’s actually depression. Take to someone about your other problems. But there are others who just make excuses, so you better know what your problem is.

ET: Some write for therapy.

AQ: I have writer’s block because I’m afraid of writing dialogue.

AQ: To learn how to write dialogue, you could talk to a reporter. Notice how people gesture while their talking and their facial expressions.

ET: Dialogue is king in Hollywood. Look at other people talking. How the character feels about things will inform the dialogue. Know your character beyond what is superficial. Don’t do too much description.

DF: You need a good balance. Sometimes you can turn description into dialogue. It will improve with the characters.

AQ: Know the goal and motivation.

ET: Let the story tell itself so it won’t be so hard.

AQ: It’s okay to pause in your writing. There are online tips.

ET: What if you’re afraid to stop? Clear writing comes with clear thinking. Scenes come alive better with dialogue but scenes can be too long if there’s too much dialogue. Skip the chit chat.

AQ: What if you have a deadline?

ET: With a deadline, you have less choice. You need to plow through and maybe stay up at night to get it done. I was once at a writing workshop where I had to write a story about a colosseum which was due the next day. But I got stage fright at 2 AM and I ended up staying up all night working on the story. However, when I turned it in, people really liked it. Otherwise, I would have taken my time with it. Writing is hard, so you may be looking for an excuse. You need to force yourself to finish and plunge through. Don’t wander.

AQ: Do you have a minimum word count you do each day?

ET: Yes. If I don’t hit a certain word count, I don’t get to go to the gym.

AQ: What type of word count do you use?

ET: Around 1,600 to 2,000. More if there’s action. It depends on the writer.

AQ: You might have a fear for writing, but you can force through with a word count goal.

ET: Writing is like exercise.

AQ: Would you promote brainstorming?

ET: In groups? I don’t do one. A writer’s group is like the blind meeting the blind. A certain amount of fear is necessary, otherwise you think everything is perfect. You need to figure out how to do it better. If you lock yourself into a corner, you can’t cheat. It’s like playing chess against yourself.

AQ: I do mindmapping software. I work on one character at a time and see how they say it.

DF: Just put something down even if it sounds lame. Then you have something to work with.

AQ: Do you revise? I get rid of the delete and backspace key. You need to give yourself permission to write the “shitty first draft”. Daniel Abraham learned to silence his inner critic with the word count. And I do it at 3 AM when the inner editor is asleep.

ET: I also write at night and then look it over in the morning to eventually polish it later.

PO: You need to practice. You need to get it inside you so you already have the rules internalized. This will help you be completely out of the critical brain.

ET: You need to internalize the structure. Practice. Read it over and over or watch movies. You should not think about that while you’re writing.

PO: It’s okay to be arrogant while you’re writing, but have someone look it over. Get out of your own way. It’s part of your craft. Don’t just show up.

ET: You need to learn the fundamentals.

PO: There’s a lot of romanticism about talent. Most writers work at it so the journeyman metaphor is more apt.

AQ: Some say you need to write ten thousand pages of crap first.

ET: Or a million.

AQ: You need to be in the mindset that you’re crushing the character.

PO: You can’t wait for it. Some stop writing while they’re hot.

ET: It’s building up the writing session. You stop in the middle of a scene so it’s easy to start later.

AQ: Or stop in the middle of sentences. If you’re OCD, you’ll have to finish it. But it can backfire if you can’t remember what you were going to say.

ET: If you have to write it down to remember it, then it’s not worth it to write it.

PO: When I had deadlines, I would fall asleep while writing and end up typing my dreams.

AQ: There was a painter who got blocks. But he just painted anyway, thinking that he would throw it away. But it eventually turned out to be a good idea.

ET: It’s like the free flowing exercise.

PO: Words are not sacrosanct.

ET: Not even the ten commandments. The first ones got destroyed in the Bible. We all get writer’s block, but it will be easier to get through it if you know the ending.

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Stay tuned for Part 16 which is on publishing options.

A Peek into MisCon 26, Part 13

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.

Previous posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9. Part 10, Part 11, Part 12

The program notes for the panel “From the Villain’s POV” stated: “There’s a reason writers stick to good guys: writing from the point of view of a villain is hard. Join us for a discussion of how to write from the bad guy’s perspective, and how to create and maintain empathy for your monster even when they are doing horrible things.” The panelists were M.J. Engh, Deby Fredericks, George R. R. Martin, and Peter Orullian. (AQ is an audience question.)

GRRM: I don’t believe in villains.

PO: A villain isn’t a villain in his own mind. So is it really the villain’s point of view or not?

DF: I don’t believe that villains don’t know that they are the villains. They want what they want and they’ll try to justify it.

MJE: I agree with George. People do bad things to each other. You can understand why they do evil things, but you don’t have to forgive them.

GRRM: Some call the villain the hero from the other side. Like the Greeks and Trojans. You lose sight of it during a war. You tend to demonize the other side. That’s where knights in shining armor came in. However, knights were far from glamorous. They may have taken oaths to protect the innocent and so forth but actually they murdered and did a lot of other horrible things. Drama arises from the tension between high ideals and corrupt ideals. The knights believed their own press. They thought they were the good ones. Villainous acts doesn’t make the villain.

PO: Villains know what they’re doing is wrong.

DF: I work in an elementary school where the kids are constantly jockeying for position. They know that what they’ve done is wrong. But it’s status. Someone of higher status will believe that striking someone does not matter because he will choose the perk of status.

MJE: They’re sure that others won’t see it as wrong because they did it, but if others do it, those others would be wrong.

DF: At the end of the year, there’s a lot of equipment damage on the playground with balls on the roof and so forth. The last remaining good ball is a precious resource. We have to explain to the older kids to be kind. Although some teams spontaneously include the younger kids.

MJE: That’s why grown-ups teach morality. What about hard-wired morality?

GRRM: Something happens when they grow up. They do some monstrous acts without thinking it’s wrong. Like during war or 9/11. Did they lose the ability to tell right from wrong? History is worse than my own books, making them look like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. Gordon Dickson planned a series of nine novels–three science fiction, three historical, and three contemporary–with the theme of the moral evolution of humankind. However, he never got to write them.

DF: Adults fudge the truth, thinking that the kids can’t handle the truth. But in George’s books, he doesn’t shrink back from what the characters will do to get to the throne. Be honest in what you’re sharing and don’t fudge.

PO: There’s moral relativism and there’s what M.J. said in the “Psychology of Evil” panel. That morality is hard-wired. That there’s a universal morality. It’s like how the settlers or the Native Americans viewed manifest destiny. So what morality should we subscribe to?

DF: Empathy needs to be taught. If the leader goes around killing and raping, others will do what the leader does. If the leader is restrained, then the troops are merciful.

MJE: There’s evidence for hard-wired morality. In some recent studies of babies of about six months or so, they have a sense of fairness. They share equally. They attach labels of good and bad, sharing and greedy. It’s an innate sense of fairness. But that’s also subject to cultural influences. So does the end justify the means? People may think that in some situations it does because humans have a tendency to think like this.

GRRM: Gordon Dickson said that we have a tendency to identify with larger groups. In moral evolution, it looks like we’re going in the right direction if we take the broad view. For the Cro-Magnons, life was like Hobbes, nasty, brutish and short. It was centered on the family. Then there were the Greek city states. And then the Roman Empire. But even they didn’t include everyone. They still thought there were barbarians outside of the empire. The US is a country of immigrants like a melting pot or salad bowl. I like to think of myself as Terran. I have morality without nationalism in A Song of Ice and Fire. Primarily, the characters identified with their house. In the Hundred Years’ War, it was the Capetians and the Plantagenets, not France and Britain. It’s still happening today. Villainy is not a member of the group. So broaden the group to evolve morality.

PO: As writers, we used to have just a protagonist point of view, like Dudley Do-Right. Now we have multiple points of view so we can sympathize with the other side. But do we still write that or do it with an edge for one side that we cheer for? Or are there equally heroes and villains?

MJE: Not all characters are equal or there would be no story. You can empathize but the reader or writer doesn’t have to approve. How do you make characters good and bad so not to tempt the reader to identify with the wrong character to cheer for?

PO: Is everyone behind the same guy in Game of Thrones?

The audience laughs.

GRRM: We watch who orders which house T-shirts. And we had orders for all of the houses so there’s a mixed response. It’s a fallacy that history is a tale of good and bad guys. However, moral relativism isn’t true. Everyone is not equally bad. You can’t place equal blame. Look at each individual case with objectivity. I was raised as a Catholic but don’t practice anymore. But I find myself still rooting for the Catholics in history. There’s an innate tendency to root for your team.

DF: There’s an interaction between the writer and the reader. We guess the story that you want to read. If there’s a misstep of character, the readers will get angry. Thomas Covenant committed crimes that the readers didn’t like. So there’s a balance between expectation and how the writer tells the story. George challenges the reader to be flexible to see the other viewpoint.

PO: You need to show failings, how people are. When I finally realized that my dad was not perfect, it was crushing. You can show that good characters fail, but you still root for them.

GRRM: If you read my blog, you know I’m a football fan. So there’s the juxtaposition of the rational and the emotional. I know there are good and bad guys on every team and that they’re just doing their job. But I have emotional reactions to particular teams. You can create villains in your own mind.

MJE: I recommend my own book In the Name of Heaven. There are no good guys as groups. Everyone persecutes each other because all of them thought they were doing right. Morality hasn’t caught up with Zeno’s stoic ideal. It’s natural for humans to identify to their own.

AQ: What about privilege within the same group?

MJE: You’ll have more opportunity to do villainous things. Anyone in authority will tempt revolution and abuse.

PO: There’s the saying “absolute power will corrupt absolutely.”

AQ: Doesn’t everyone have their own personal journey?

GRRM: Yes. Every character will have a journey. Their choices are the milestones. Will they leave people to die or steal their food? It’s a question of choices and personal agendas.

AQ: You have a vast array of characters. Do you find that some characters are more difficult to write their point of view?

GRRM: Bran. It’s hard to write a young kid. How much does he understand what he sees? And I don’t write the three-year-old. How much do you remember when you’re three? I don’t think it’s difficult to do villainous characters. How difficult was it to write Arslan?

MJE: It was difficult. It took me eight years. It probably had something to do with exorcising my own demons. But once I got into it, I understood him but did not forgive. I was very disturbed when a reader showed me a first edition of the book that he had gotten from a used bookstore. There was a lot of underlining in the book where it was clear that the previous reader saw Arslan as the hero. So the writer needs to take responsibility.

AQ: How easy or difficult is it to generate a scary scene? Do you bring in a richly described villain?

GRRM: Fear doesn’t come from a scary villain. It comes from the fear that the hero won’t survive. The hero could be facing seventy-four orcs with a penknife and it might not be scary. The author needs to give cues and establish that nobody is safe.

* * *


(The Iron Throne from Game of Thrones)

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Stay tuned for Part 14 which includes a panel on the revision process.

A Peek into MisCon 26, Part 11

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.

Previous posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9. Part 10

I attended part of a presentation called “An Overview of Victorian Clothing History” by Kass McGann. It was interesting. The myth that you could cut your throat on starched collars was debunked. The collars were made of cellulose so you could get a bruise, but it would be impossible to cut yourself. From the late 1860s to 1880, the color palette was incredibly bright and flashy–despite all those sepia-colored pictures–because artificial dyes had just been invented. And the so-called health corset or s-curve corset was even worse than the regular corset because it still kept pressure on the waist and put pressure on the spine which killed a lot of women.

The panel “Gender Roles and Societal Change” was presented by M.J. Engh, Deby Fredericks, and Parris ja Young. (AQ is an audience question.)


(Left to right: M.J. Engh, Deby Fredericks, Parris ja Young)

PY: I came of age in the 1960s.

DF: I grew up when women still used male pseudonyms.

MJE: I was one of those authors who used initials. Because I wrote a violent first novel.

PY: Nowadays there are more women in leadership positions. So is the situation improving? In the prehistoric age, they had Venus figures and fertility icons which made people think it used to be a matriarchal society.

MJE: That idea is in the book The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe. It’s a possible point of view. But I don’t think matriarchal society was necessarily peaceful.

PY: Then after that women start getting put down and squeezed out. When did it start?

DF: There are phases in things that come and go. Sometimes the swing takes a thousand years.

MJE: Take for instance Roman history during the first emperors. The typical Roman woman had more independence than 19th century women. They could run their own business or not take their husband’s name.

DF: But civilization collapsed and Europe had to start again. In the Dark Ages to the year 600, there were a lot of generations.

AQ: Didn’t that put the church back into power with Constantine? That’s a 1500 year swing. In classical Greek civilization, it was considered strange to be in love with your wife.

MJE: But it was different in Athens than from Sparta or any other city-state. You need to start in the neolithic period. Women held all the secrets of planting and harvesting, maybe. But when people settled down, they started having hierarchies that were taken over by men.

DF: Priorities changed. They had more to protect. Usually men protected family and community. Priorities change if you have stuff to defend. Men usually fight but women don’t have the gut instinct for that.

MJE: Since there was no hunting, men were running out of things to do.

AQ: There were no written records back in those times so people thought it was all peaceful and idyllic. But one example was the Mayans. People thought they were peaceful until they had a breakthrough into their language and they found out that they really weren’t that peaceful.

PY: Margaret Mead and Jane Goodall watched the animals and said that they were kind to each other. But during the 1960s when there were a lot of hostile takeovers, there were more brutal observations of animals.

AQ: Isn’t it more of a class movement? The lower class always had to work, so maybe this is an upper class thing.

MJE: It’s changed. Back in the day on the farm, the woman did all the housework and the farming, but she was never called the farmer, only the farmer’s wife. Now she can be called the farmer.

AQ: The frontier states were early to adopt that.

DF: That was because there weren’t that many people in the frontier in the first place. If there was an opening for a postmaster and a woman was available for the job, she became the postmaster.

PY: Jeannette Rankin was the first woman to serve in Congress even before the women’s vote.

DF: It may seem like these are slow changes, but it has to do with the young adopting a viewpoint that the older people don’t hold. Like interracial marriage or gay marriage.

AQ: All of this seem to be preceded by war.

DF: That’s seminal to the minority experience as well.

AQ: And society’s view on sex in literature is from the influence of society.

DF: One example is Silent Spring which started the movement for environmental consciousness. Before, there was the notion of “better living through chemicals”. There had been no science done on the side effects. Rachel Carson noticed that spraying of insecticides caused the dying of birds. She was called a hysterical woman scientist and people were shocked that she was raising her nephew who was born out of wedlock. But now, we do things differently when we think about trash or fuel consumption.

AQ: But the same thing happened in World War I, after it women were told to go back. In fantasy, Edgar Rice Burroughs had a princess wielding a sword, but at the same time there were a lot of other books where the hero was still saving the damsel in distress.

DF: Another example is Tarzan. Many people don’t know that there is a black maid in that story who constantly needed to be saved and was superstitious. Every work mirrors its time.

AQ: Like Nancy Drew.

PY: There are some great women’s roles in Game of Thrones.

AQ: How would you address work that comes out today? I think there’s a shift towards misogyny with video games. Or even Dr. Who. It’s not reflecting a progressive view. With all the comments on YouTube, young men grow up thinking that it’s okay to denigrate women.

DF: I was disappointed in Diablo III. All the female characters were in bikinis.

AQ: I want more naked men.

AQ: Patricia Briggs has a strong female character in Mercy Thompson.

DF: The problem is with political discourse, the influence of media, talk radio, the audience throwing chairs. But it’s not tolerated as it once was.

AQ: The people making games are catering to the lowest common denominator due to economics. But I also see other games and books where there is better treatment of women.

MJE: The thing is, you can complain about it now. It’s getting noisier. The general trend is for improvement. Things could be a lot worse, so don’t give up.

AQ: There’s also a trend for women to be kick-ass and have traditional male characteristics. What about traditional female roles?

DF: The trend for kick-ass heroines is a sales tool because the audience is still men. Young men are more accepting about kick-ass women, but they still have to be in a bikini.

AQ: But it’s problematic for men if you give them characteristics that are traditionally considered female.

PY: Women can multitask. Men target things. In a relationship, they both have to give up something.

DF: But a lot of it is socializing.

AQ: But a stay-at-home dad is still derided.

DF: In anime, there is a joke about women who can’t cook. But food is important.

AQ: The stereotype of women who can’t do anything has been turned into the stereotype of women who are mean and violent.

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Stay tuned for Part 12 which contains a panel on telling a story in different media.