By Writing Excuses | January 23, 2011 - 7:00 pm - Posted in Alternate History, Fantasy, general, Genre, Guest, World Building

Mary Robinette Kowal and Eric Flint join Howard and Dan for a discussion of writing Alternate History. Eric divides the sub-genre into two categories for us. Dan adds a third category for us later. Summing up:

  1. Our history, but with a key change occurring (the “branching point.”)
  2. Our history, but with a time-traveler going back and changing something (aka “duck, Mister President!”)
  3. Our history, but with magic (usually with said magic being the key change at our branching point)

Mary’s first novel, Shades of Milk and Honey, grew out of a love for Jane Austen’s work and a love for the fantasy genre. Eric’s alternate histories (including the wildly popular 1632 series) grow out of the fact that he enjoyed history enough to obtain a Master’s degree in it. Write what you know, and write what you’re passionate about.

During the second half of the ‘cast Eric and Mary give us advice on how to go about writing alternate history. We talk about research, about when to sweat the details and when not to, and about some of the biggest challenges Mary and Eric faced during these projects.

At 22 minutes and 39 seconds it’s clear that we ran a little long on this one.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week (Two-for-One): Crown of Slaves and Torch of Freedom, both by Eric Flint and David Weber. These books fit in Weber’s Honor Harrington universe, but don’t require you to have read all the Honor Harrington books.

Writing Prompt: Pick a major event in history that you love, and make it come out differently.

Session Notes: We recorded seven guest episodes while at the Superstars Writing Seminar in Salt Lake City. This is the first of these. Brandon was absent for the first three sessions, but joined us for the last four.

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By Writing Excuses | December 11, 2011 - 5:49 pm - Posted in Alternate History, Fantasy, Genre, Sci-fi

Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman from the Interstitial Arts Foundation join Mary and Dan at World Fantasy to discuss things that fall into the gaps between the genres.

How do publishers, agents, and booksellers deal with titles that are speculative, but that cannot be easily categorized as science fiction, fantasy, horror, paranormal romance, steampunk, or one of the other readily shelvable genres? And how should authors approach writing such titles?

(We apologize for Dan’s low volume — neither Producer Jordo nor Howard were present to play engineer and catch the fact that Dan’s track wasn’t capturing any actual audio. Jordo did what he could to bump Dan’s volume up after the fact.)

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint, narrated by the author along with a full voice cast and with additional cool soundscapes, is one of the Neil Gaiman Presents titles on Audible.

Writing Prompt: Try to write something that doesn’t fit neatly into the genres you’re familiar with.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.
Visit http://AudiblePodcast.com/excuse for a free trial membership*.
*Note: From the Audible website, here are the terms of the free membership. Read the fine print, please!

Audible® Free Trial Details
Get your first 14 days of the AudibleListener® Gold membership plan free, which includes one audiobook credit. After your 14 day trial, your membership will renew each month for just $14.95 per month so you can continue to receive one audiobook credit per month plus members-only discounts on all audio purchases. A very small number of titles are more than one credit. Cancel your membership before your free trial period is up and you will not be charged. Thereafter, cancel anytime, effective the next billing cycle. Any unused audiobook credits will be lost at cancellation.

By Writing Excuses | February 12, 2012 - 8:15 pm - Posted in Alternate History, Fantasy, Genre, Season 7, Setting

We begin with a definition of Historical Fantasy that allows us narrow the topic and differentiate it from Alternate History. When we say historical fantasy we mean “adding magic to a historical period we want to write in.” We offer some examples of this, talk about why it’s popular right now, and then talk about how you as a writer can do this well.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: His Majesty's Dragon: Temeraire, Book 1, by Naomi Novik, narrated by Simon Vance

Writing Prompt: Identify a historical period that you like, and write a story in that setting. Don't bother researching anything until you're done.

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By Writing Excuses | February 19, 2012 - 5:48 pm - Posted in Alternate History, Guest, Season 7, Setting

Mary and Dan discuss using a city as a character with Sarah Pinborough, for whom London is an important setting and one of her favorite places. We talk about the importance of being accurate, and how a city isn’t just the buildings and the history, it’s also the attitudes of the people who live there. Sarah gives us lots (and lots and lots) of insight into how she wrote London into her books, what she did right, and what (per her admission) she got wrong.

Dan and Mary also give us some peeks into what they’ve done with Clayton (completely fictional) and Nashville (adjusted via authorial arson) in their own books.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Terror, by Dan Simmons, narrated by Simon Vance

Writing Prompt: Take a city to which you have been, and set a chase scene there.

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By Writing Excuses | April 22, 2012 - 10:30 pm - Posted in Alternate History, Education, Research, Season 7

Larry Correia joins Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard in front of a live audience at LTUE on Utah Valley University campus. Larry knows guns inside and out, and talks to us about the mistakes that writers make when putting firearms into their stories.

Most of this is simple stuff, or at least it’s simple to fix, but that doesn’t change the fact that we get it wrong all the time. Have a listen, follow Larry’s advice, and get your guns right.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Spellbound: Book II of the Grimnoir Chronicles, by Larry Corriea, narrated by Bronson Pinchot

Writing Prompt: Give us a character who, after reading one Larry Correia novel, goes out and procures a grenade launcher.

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By Writing Excuses | July 8, 2012 - 8:48 pm - Posted in Alternate History, Season 7

Mary talks to us in depth about Glamour in Glass, and yes, there are spoilers. She discusses the challenges she faced with the project, and some of the inspirations and key concepts that drove it.

Brandon, Dan, and Howard fire questions at Mary, and while she’s supposed to be on the spot she fields everything with aplomb (with the exception of that one surprise at 4:42.) We learn about the military applications of the glamour magic system, a system that up until now we’d only seen in the drawing rooms of high society.

The content here is particularly fascinating (and useful!) if you’re looking to write alternate history, as Mary goes into quite a bit of detail about what went into the rather significant changes she made to the history in her books. Her research process is worthy of your close attention.

Hello Kitty at 4:42: The cat’s name is “Pinecone” and its arrival was unexpected.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Hollow City, by Dan Wells, which, as of this writing, doesn't show up on Audible's site. We counsel patience.

Writing Prompt: Have Queen Victoria's cousin not die. How is history changed?

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Cancel anytime, effective the next monthly billing cycle. Cancel before your trial ends and you will not be charged. Check out the full terms and policies that apply to Audible membership.

By Writing Excuses | December 26, 2012 - 1:28 pm - Posted in Alternate History, Season 7, Setting, World Building

Hey, guess what 2012 has fifty-three of? Mondays! So you’re getting a fifty-third episode of “Writing Excuses” this season. (You’re also going to be getting a fifty-fourth, because we stuck an extra in there a few weeks back.)

Hopefully this excuses (no pun intended) the fact that this episode is a full three days late. Merry Christmas!

Let’s talk about secret histories. A secret history is a subset of alternate history, in which historical events are given new explanations, typically fantastical ones, but in which the reader is invited to believe that this is the world we all currently live in.

We mention Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Tim Powers’ Last Call, and Jo Walton’s Among Others, and why secret history has the appeal it does, especially when it’s done well. And because you want to know how to do it well, we spend some time on that, as well as discussing some of the ethics of creating secret histories in the first place.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: A Short Stay in Hell, by Stephen L. Peck, narrated by Sergei Burbank

Writing Prompt: Take a popular piece of entertainment, grab a side-character, and give us their secret story.

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By Writing Excuses | September 29, 2013 - 7:38 pm - Posted in Alternate History, Dystopian, Season 8

Cherie Priest stopped by for an evening during the Out Of Excuses Workshop and Retreat this summer, so of course we took the opportunity to drag her into the basement and grill her relentlessly about dystopian fiction, in front of witnesses.

(Okay, maybe that’s not exactly how it happened…)

After the requisite introductions, we give you a working definition of dystopian fiction, and why it’s popular. Cherie and Dan tell us about their dystopias, and then we dig into talking about how to build them well.

Steelheart Tweeting Thingy: Per the episode intro from Howard, this Monday, September 30th we’ll be giving away Steelheart audiobooks, courtesy of our sponsor Audible.com, to some randomly-selected people who tweet their epic weakness and the name of the book. Here’s the format:

“My epic weakness is {WEAKNESS} and the chance to win the STEELHEART audiobook from @WritingExcuses”

Obviously you’ll want to replace {WEAKNESS} with something clever. You have fifty-two characters to play with. Also, you should follow @WritingExcuses on Twitter so we can Direct Message you if you happen to be one of the lucky winners. We’ll announce the winners on Tuesday.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Dreadnought, by Cherie Priest, narrated by Kate Reading.

Writing Prompt: Base a dystopia on breakfast cereal...

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What are those things you already know, but which you might not be using in your writing? How do you identify those things and put them to work for you? Mette Ivie Harrison joins us for a discussion of how you might “hijack” (okay, “repurpose”) the knowledge you already have in order to make you a better writer. We hear a lot about the 10,000 hours of practice required to gain expertise in a given domain. It’s possible that you’ve already spent some of those 10,000 hours in activities that you didn’t realize were related.

Mette leads with her love of history. Mary directs us a bit with a metaphor from Jim Henson. Brandon talks about what is, by any other name, fanfic, and Howard talks about his degree in music composition. We also talk about how we leverage the knowledge we’re acquiring in other activities to flesh out the things we’re writing — in effect, letting that stuff serve as research without it being part of the actual research we do.

 

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Dangerous Women, by George RR Martin, Gardner Dozois and several others (including Brandon Sanderson), narrated by a long A-list of voices.

Writing Prompt: Look at your own life. Take some skill, activity, or piece of esoteric knowledge that seems completely unrelated to your writing, and then incorporate it in the next thing that you write.

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