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Writing Lessons from Joss Whedon

A close friend told me about a great podcast called the Nerdist with comedian Chris Hardwick. In each episode he interviews some great celebrities and in a recent episode he was able to sit down with writer-director Joss Whedon. Most of you don’t know me personally so you’re not aware of how much I look up to Joss Whedon, not just as a nerd who loves his work, but mostly as a writer who enjoys his stories. So when I listened to this podcast thinking it would be a chance to geek out, I was pleasantly surprised to hear a lot of great insight into his process.

I encourage all of you to give it a listen. It’s an hour and a half of nerdy and writerly awesome.

http://www.nerdist.com/2013/07/nerdist-podcast-joss-whedon/

I hope you can get something out of it. I know I did.

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Book Review: A Glimpse of Her Soul by Stuart Jaffe

I had the pleasure of meeting author Stuart Jaffe at LibertyCon 2013 this year. Some of you may have read my postmortem on that trip where I talked about some friends and myself hanging out with him into the small hours of the night. Many of us picked up his books and me in particular, I snatched up “A Glimpse of Her Soul.” This particular book is his foray into the YA scene in what he calls a Dark Fantasy novel.

A blurb of the book taken from his Amazon page:

Gillian is an ordinary teenager trying to navigate high school. But when a horrific, supernatural creature murders a student, Gillian learns she stands next on the list.

Now she must unravel the arcane mystery while surviving attacks from bizarre monstrosities. Her struggle leads her into a world hiding just beneath the curtain of our own – an underworld of vicious creatures and dark magic. A world in which her own family is not what they appear. One where her only savior may be her deadliest enemy.

She better come up with answers soon because more than one life hangs in jeopardy.

Filled with action and excitement, intrigue and mystery, A Glimpse of Her Soul is a pulse-pounding ride that will stay with you long after you’ve read the final chapter.

The reason I chose this book is because of the work I’m doing for my own YA novel. It’s always fun to see what other authors are doing in your genre.

Stuart Jaffe’s “A Glimpse of Her Soul” doesn’t wait for you to catch up. It kicks off with the paranormal and keeps on rolling until the very end. He builds off a solid trope and creates a really unique experience in the monsters he’s named Callers. Creatures from the realm of Spirit that take on twisted forms of earthly things. Here he let his imagination run wild and it really pays. They range from a sadistic Bamboo Samurai to a living feather boa. Allowing himself to go to the absurd really payed off.

I believe young readers will enjoy the fast pace of the novel. For my tastes, however, I would have preferred he slowed it down a bit. There were some relationships that I would have liked to see explored more in depth. The denouement felt especially rushed compared to the other parts of the book. Just as the climax has finished we’re reading the last few pages. I was left with wanting to see more of the aftermath of such a physically and mentally destructive experience. It felt like a marathon workout without a cool down.

Stuart Jaffe has set himself up for a decent trilogy. The main character Gillian Boone didn’t have much time to flex her powers in this book, but I can see her becoming a force of her own in future novels. And she’s a great character for tween to teenage girls to latch onto. He does a great job of nabbing that age range. She’s moody, easily distracted, and takes out her frustration on those around her. Which really sounds like teens in general.

If you’re looking for a fast read with some unique monsters, then this is the book for you.

LibertyCon 2013 Postmortem

Time travels swiftly.  I’m sure you’ve all been there. That point when you look up and realize it has already been a year. What had felt like a forever-away has pounced on you in moments. And so it was that I found myself walking around the Chattanooga Choo-Choo  to attend LibertyCon.

For those that frequent the larger convention beat, LibertyCon is an interesting beast. You see, my only convention for many years had been GenCon Indy. Which is a massive weekend of gaming. To get into events you have to register for tickets. Very rarely can you just show up to something and get in. GenCon engulfs downtown Indianapolis. Restaurants in the area create custom gaming themed menus it’s so big.

LibertyCon, on the other hand, takes place in one small hotel area. Each panel is only going to be in one of three places (for the most part) and the attendance to each will be a smattering of people. The main focus of the weekend is Science Fiction and Fantasy writing.

And I love it.

It’s because of the intimacy of the entire thing.  At each panel you begin to see familiar faces. Staying after to talk with the authors, agents, and artists one-on-one is encouraged. We are all there to talk about the art and craft of writing. For beginning writers it’s a great resources to learn from those that have gone before.

This was my second year in attendance. I’ll be honest, this year didn’t feel as strong. Aside from one panel, the moderators did little to keep the panelist on topic and wouldn’t open it up for questions near the end. If you wanted to ask a question you needed to strong arm your way into the middle of someone’s rambling. Which is not something I like to do if I can help it. In addition, I didn’t feel like many people gave substantive information. Many times I felt like  the panelists devolved into moaning about the state of traditional publishing.

Despite all that, I still had a good time. My goal this year was to meet new people. One of LibertyCon’s greatest strengths is how small it is. This allows you to really get to know everyone around you. If you didn’t get a chance to ask your questions during the panel, there is always time afterward.  This year my writing group and I struck up a friendship with author Stuart Jaffe.

Stuart had a lot of information to give and was very personable. What I found most impressive was his ability to moderate and keep panels on track, while also opening up the floor for questions. Here is a quick blurb about him from his Amazon Author page.

Stuart Jaffe is the author of The Max Porter Paranormal-Mysteries, The Malja Chronicles, a post-apocalyptic fantasy series, The Bluesman pulp series, and After The Crash as well as the short story collection, 10 Bits of My Brain. Numerous other short stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies.

He is the co-host of The Eclectic Review — a podcast about science, art, and well, everything.

I’m currently reading his book, “A Glimpse of Her Soul.” A YA Dark Fantasy about a girl who discovers that there is a message written on her soul. And there are plenty of monsters lurking in the dark who want to part her with that message. He definitely doesn’t waste anytime getting right into the meat of it all. When I finish the book I’ll give a deeper review here.

Leaving his reading on Saturday I stuck around and spoke with him a bit when the rest of my crew wanted to head out to eat. We invited him to come along and with it being his birthday and having nothing better to do, he accepted. What started as a simple invitation turned into a night of (nerdy) adventure. Unable to find a place to eat around the convention, we all packed up and headed over to the condo we were staying at. This ended up being a better deal. The restaurant was quieter, which gave us all time to talk shop and joke. Afterward we headed back to the condo to play Cards Against Humanity until 1:00 AM.

Getting up the next day was brutal, but totally worth it.

Overall I made some new friends and a couple of connections. Stuart convinced me to check out JordanCon next year (which I had always assumed was Wheel of Time only) and he highly endorses Con Carolina. As it is now I’m going to get some rest, do some more writing, and get ready for next years convention. Last year I had a half complete MS. This year I had a completed one. Now it’s time to have it either represented or in a publisher’s hands by next year.

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