Monday, April 27, 2009

Zorro and the Plot Twist that Would Not Work

I'm working on something for MORE TALES OF ZORRO which is a joy and a struggle. It's a joy because I love the character and doing this brings back good memories. It's a struggle because there are two mutually exclusive things I'd like to have happen at the conclusion of the story.

This started as the story of how Zorro's father came to learn his secret. That would have been fun to tell, but it wasn't approved. I'm trying to save the best parts to tell a story about Zorro and Esperanza (the woman he's married to in the beginning of "The Mask of Zorro"). It's not quite clicking yet but possibly after tonight.

It's an interesting challenge to write a licensed character. In some ways it's much harder and less satisfying than creating your own. When you've created a character you can do anything you want to him or her. It's unrestricted creativity, and what's not to love about that. There's also a connection you feel toward characters you have created that just isn't there for another author's brainchild.

When writing a character like Zorro, there is a strange tension. It's something I think that every writer handles differently. On the one hand, you have to honor the character's existing back-story, established personality, relationships, etc. It's something the fans (and the copyright holder) want you to do, and I think they have a right to have some expectations.

That can clash with the author's legitimate desire to do something unique and fresh with the character. Nobody wants to write retreads of someone else's stories after all. But I think there needs to be a balance between these two extremes.

Years ago I read a Sherlock Holmes pastiche in which it was revealed that boredom and drug abuse had driven the detective mad. Unable to find a worthy adversary, he created the identity of Professor Moriarty and began planning crimes. Later, when even this was not enough of a challenge, he became Jack the Ripper.

It was a clever idea and (as I remember) pretty well executed. However, it violated my expectations of what the character was supposed to be like so badly that it nearly made me sick. The reason I was reading Holmes pastiches at that age was because I was a big fan. I really loved the character and his adventures, and the revelation felt like a personal betrayal. The writer did something that was perfectly legal, and artistically valid, but it's something I'd never want to do myself. Having been on the other side I think that the writer should balance his creative drive with the expectations of the fans.

So in my story Zorro will not turn out to be Professor Moriarty, or Jack the Ripper. He will be (I hope) dashing, clever, romantic, etc. I hope I can bring something uniquely mine to the story, but even more I hope I can capture some of the magic that I felt when I first saw Guy Williams or Tyrone Power or Alain Delon out fencing and outwitting the forces or tyranny and injustice. That part feels even more important to me than adding my own special touches.

Speaking of, I have a plot twist to grapple with!

Friday, April 24, 2009


This is something that the young Ben Franklin came up with. I've always liked it. (His actual epitaph was much less creative).

The body of
B. Franklin, Printer
(Like the Cover of an Old Book
Its Contents torn Out
And Stript of its Lettering and Gilding)
Lies Here, Food for Worms.
But the Work shall not be Lost;
For it will (as he Believ'd) Appear once More
In a New and More Elegant Edition
Revised and Corrected
By the Author.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

This Idea Stolen From...

Catherine Gardener had a great idea (which she lifted from Aaron Polson) and I thought it would be fun to pirate it for myself. Here are the ten stories of which I am proudest (in no particular order).

1) Mysterious Dan’s Legacy (Arkham Tales) - The first of the Dave Mather stories (though I had to change the character's name in this for legal reasons). It's one of my first and IMO contains some of my best characterization.

2) Nano-Domini (Robots Beyond) - It's a short story about noano-robots discovering God... sort of. It was thematically ambitious but came off pretty well.

3) Clown Fish (High Seas Cthulhu) - A pirate story that tries to be creepy and ironic. I love the way the title connects to the end of the story.

4) Snake Oil (Frontier Cthulhu) - Another Dave Mather story with lots of authentic snake lore and a last paragraph I'm proud of.

5) The Beauty Thief (Submitted) - This one is based on a Navajo ghost story. It has an experimental structure, is told in first person present, and has a confusing ending. Despite this, I think it's one of the very best things I've written.

6) The Cold Comes South (In Lovecraft's Shadow #1) - Another Dave Mather story and IMO perhaps the creepiest. I think I got the sense of the barren frontier just about right in it.

7) Fool’s Gold (Hell's Hangmen) - Yet another Dave Mather story. This one has some characters (including Wyatt Earp) who I became very fond of. I also liked the last line quite a bit.

8) City of Masks (You Don't Know What You've Got) - My first zombie story. It's still got flaws, but I was happy witht he final form it took. It was written at a very painful time in my life and that actually sharpened the writing a bit.

9) Closing Time at Galaxy Video (Submitted) - A humorous tale of alien invasion that I have a lot of affection for. I'd love to write more in this vein.

10) The Tragic Tale of Tyrannosaurus Tex (Submission) - A very short story and probably my funniest. I've had the title kicking around for years and am very happy finally to have a story to go with it.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Robots Beyond

I just found out that Robots Beyond from Permuted Press is now available at Amazon. This was a fun one ot work with, largely because editor Lane Adamson and a lot of the contributors are friends of mine. I had the chance to see some of the stories in the workshop stage and there is some seriously great stuff in here.

The table of contents is:

- Electric Crown by Thom Brannan
- The Last Protector by Billy Wong
- Franchise Hell by Ren Holton
- Burning Down the House by Paula Stiles
- Tinman by Jesse A. Lynn
- Crocus by William Carl
- Narrative Device by Alistair Bishop
- Other Dreams by Dave Dunwoody
- The Strange Affair of the Artisan's Heart by Joshua Reynolds
- Surveillance by R. Thomas Riley
- Primero by Richard Mosses
- The Cure by Christopher Donahue
- Hothead by Mark Patrick Lynch
- How Coyote Made Robot by John W. Oliver
- Again, Iabrochium by Joel Sutherland
- Be Swift, My Soul by Lane Adamson
- A Robot Named J35U5 by Matt R. Jones
- Nano-Domini by Matthew Baugh
- Are You Lonesome Tonight? by Doug Wojtowicz

Friday, April 17, 2009

What has the Government Ever Given Us?

I usually don't do political type blogs, but the tea bag protests this week triggered a memory of this scene from a favorite movie.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Hunger Site

This is a post that I’m putting on both my blogs because it needs to have the word spread. You may know about these already, but, if you don’t, here they are.

The Hunger Site started in 1999 and is a click-to-donate website. What that means is that you can click a button on the site once per day and it will translate as a small donation to the famine relief organizations Feeding America (formerly known as America’s Second Harvest) and Mercy Corps. The action is free and, thought the donation is small, it adds up over time and is an effortless way to make a difference.

It is linked to a number of other websites with the same set up and similar missions.

The Breast Cancer Site gathers contributions for free mammogram screenings.

The Child Health Site focuses its efforts on providing medicine and medical care to low income children.

The Literacy Site uses the funds they gather to purchase books for literacy campaigns.

The Rainforest Site buys up areas of endangered rainforest so they cannot be developed.

The Animal Rescue Site purchases food to care for animals in shelters.

Each of them is worth a click a day. They are my first six visits when I go on line. I hope you'll consider them.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Two Books I Read

I've been reading two books side by side for the last few days and finished them both this morning. They are as different in most ways as two books can be, but drew forth similar feelings from me.

NEVERWHERE is a fantasy novel by Neil Gaiman. It's the fairy-tail like story of a nice but very ordinary young man named Richard who accidentally slips out of the normal world of London and ends up in the surreal world of London-Below. He ends out helping a girl named Door on a quest, makes friends, faces monsters, meets an angel, and grows up to a truer sense of who he is and what he wants in life. It's a magical book in a way that few books (even those with lots of magic) ever are. It touched me because it was so good at recognizing that true magic has to do with friendship, and kindness, and unselfish compassion. It does a wonderful job of showing how what we believe about the-way-things-are can beat us down and blind us to the truth of this magic.

It's got some honest, ugly and frightening moments, but the moments of wonder, joy and love are just as honest (more actually) and make the journey more than worth it.

VELVET ELVIS by Rob Bell is a brilliant, unconventional look at Christianity and what it is really meant to be. It does a wonderful job of cutting past the dogma and layers of tradition and striking at the heart of faith, which, even after 2000 years is beautiful, radical and inspiring. For Bell, real faith isn't about following a set of ecclesiastical rules to get into Heaven. It's something that changes us in the here and now, helping us to see the world as God sees it, helping us love the people God loves (which is everyone) and living out that love.

In other words (I'm simplifying here) but true faith has less to do with the beliefs we hold and more to do with things like friendship, and kindness, and unselfish compassion. He also does a great job of showing how what we believe about the-way-things-are can beat us down and blind us to the truth of God.

In the end these two very different books were a great combination to read. I recomment either, or both, without reservation.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Article of Faith

My friend Leah told me about this story featured on the Escape Pod podcast. She said it made her think of something I might write. The subject matter, about a robot who explores the possibilities of faith in God, is is certainly something I'd love to work with, and the themes of acceptance vs. exclusion are close to my heart. Of course I can only dream that I'll ever be able to write like Mike Resnick, who has won more honors for his science fiction than anyone else.

His story, "Article of Faith" is a 2009 Hugo Award nominee for short fiction. It's found here and is episode 193.

I highly recommend listening to it!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Lost Generation

This very cool video is making its rounds on the internet right now. It was conceived and produced by a 20 year old and is the second place winner in a vdieo contest.