Posts filed under writers

Happy Birthday Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov by Rowena Morrill

Isaac Asimov
born  Isaak Yudovich Ozimov
(circa January 2, 1920 — April 6, 1992)
painting by Rowena Morrill

[reblogged from   visual laurel:
Happy Birthday Isaac Asimov]

I may be a little late here, but if memory serves, although January 2nd would have been  Isaac Asimov’s birth date of record, it seems to me he told some tale about the actual records being confused due to his family’s emigration from Russia.  Whatever else,  Asimov was always interesting.

Isaac Asimov was a hugely important influence for me.   I loved his books when I first stumbled on “Foundation” in my high school library; Ike took me by the hand and helped me find my way through the worlds of science fiction.

As a reader I loved his bare bones accessible writing style.  Devoid of superfluous descriptive padding, his plots were crisp and he wrote just what he needed to bring the story to life.

The good Dr. Asimov’s exploration of robotics throughout his powerful stories was breathtaking, but his non-fiction was excellent, too, because he was brilliant at explaining things so that anyone could understand.  (I rather think Malcolm Gladwell is like Asimov without the fiction.)

And I have to say, between Asimov’s stories and non-fiction alike, I learned more science from him than I did from any teacher I ever had in school.   My grade nine physics teacher was a dead loss at getting through to me; and I’m certain the only reason I passed was because he didn’t want to have to try again.

Much as I loved science fiction, as a writer, I’ve never dared write in this genre because I’ve always felt I lacked the requisite grounding in science,  and always thought the only SF I’d want to write would be hard science fiction.  (That may change in future.)  When I and my friend, Canadian Trekkies Association co-founder Susan Schmidt, published our very first Star Trek and science fiction Fanzine Canektion in the 1970’s, she tackled the science fiction writing while I handled reviews, art and design.  I actually mailed a copy off to the good doctor, and was gobsmacked to receive a personal thank you note on a postcard (with a wonderful “Very impressive looking” quote).  One of my greatest regrets was losing that postcard at my very first science fiction convention.

I was quite taken with the glimpses of Isaac Asimov the person through the humour in his Hugo Winners introductions.  Yet the only book he wrote that was pretty nearly unreadable was the first volume of his autobiography, “In Memory Yet Green,”   I paid big bucks for the hardcover version, but after the agony of struggling through it, I knew nothing would ever entice me to read it again so I gave it away.  Fortunately he took a better crack at it in later life with “I, Asimov

One of the best things about Asimov’s writing is that he wrote characters who were human beings.  Better yet, it didn’t matter whether they were men, women or robots. The strong and interesting women characters that Asimov wrote — women like Dr. Susan Calvin, Edith Fellowes and Bayta Darell — certainly made a positive impression on me as a young woman.  This was pretty radical for his time, especially when you consider that even today some male authors have difficulty writing plausible female characters.   Asimov wrote women who existed in their own right; they weren’t just tossed in to be a damsel in distress, a femme fatale or love interest. They were real people.  I’ve often been told my own characters live and breathe, and I think this is in no small part due to his example; he showed me how.

I never tire of Asimov’s stories, and I’ve read some over and over again.  Which is why I am saddened by the absence of his work on the shelves of public libraries today.  This state of affairs means most of today’s young people will not have the opportunity to stumble across his books the way I did, simply because they aren’t there.

I expect this probably has as much to do with copyright as much as anything.  Keep his work locked down tight so as to create an artificial scarcity that will drive the retail price up… a strategy I suspect the great man would not himself have approved.   Such market fiddling tends to result in dissipation of a hard won reputation.

The movie version of “I, Robot” was quite a disappointment because the only thing the film makers used of his brilliant book was Asimov’s distinctive title.  All I can say is that I am happy Hollywood has kept its fingers off most of his other works.  “I, Robot” wasn’t a terrible film, Will Smith is always a joy; it did have a reasonable story, nice special effects and all… actually I might even have liked it if they hadn’t squandered Asimov’s iconic title on a story that bore no resemblance to his seminal collection of robot short stories.  And of course the worst thing is that it means that there is now little or no chance of making a proper movie from the book.   It would actually have been best as a series of films (or perhaps a mini series) to do the work justice.  And that is just too bad.

Isaac Asimov touched my life in many positive ways, and he certainly influenced my decision to become a writer.   I just wish I could have thanked him in person.

Image Credit
Isaac Asimov on Throne” by Rowena Morrill –en:Image:AsimovOnThrone.png, uploaded to en:Wikipedia by en:user:Xiong 14:06, 2 April 2005. Via Wikimedia Commons under the:

GNU Free Documentation License Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Front-Cover Texts, no Back-Cover Texts and with Invariant Sections as indicated. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled “Text of the GNU Free Documentation License.”

And so it begins…

NaNoWriMo is the (now International) National Novel Writing Month.  I’ve participated every year since I wrote my first novel.

But some traditional publishers and traditionally published authors look down their noses at NaNoWriMo.  Some people trash NaNoWriMo as a way to drive traffic from the ever-increasing international NaNoWriMo community to their own websites.  Some people trash NaNoWriMo because they’ve tried it, and failed.  Some people trash NaNoWriMo because they’ve bought into the mythology woven by the big five.  Some people trash NaNoWriMo because they fear the competition.  Some people trash NaNoWriMo even though they haven’t figured it out.   If something is beyond your ken, if you fail to grok it, if you simply can’t wrap your mind around it, you are not competent to judge it.  So you shouldn’t.

Now, that doesn’t mean NaNoWriMo is perfect; like most things human beings do it is going to have the odd flaw.  But the correct response to flaws is to identify them, and find constructive ways to fix them.  There is a world of difference between trashing anything and constructive criticism.  Like any organization, NaNoWriMo is run by an ever changing roster of human beings, so it is not going to be the same every year.  It is also a volunteer driven enterprise; it would not be as well established as it is but for the hard work of many dedicated volunteers.

Why NaNo?

NaNoWriMo Begins (2014 edition)

The reason NaNoWriMo is so successful is that it can be anything to anyone, because NaNoWriMo enables the establishment of supportive communities in which people can exercise their creativity in safety.  Some people do NaNoWriMo to see if they can do it, or just to see what writing a novel is like.  Some people do NaNoWriMo just because it’s fun.  Some people do NaNoWriMo to write other things, like short stories or non-fiction or to revise the novel they wrote last year, but NaNoWriMo embraces them as “NaNoWriMo Outlaws” because NaNoWriMo embraces everyone who needs it for whatever reason.  And some people do NaNoWriMo as an aid to writing novels professionally.
If you get something out of participating in NaNoWriMo, it’s worth doing. If it doesn’t, don’t do it.

My NaNo

Vanessa Ricci-Thode autographs "Dragon Whisperer"

Vanessa Ricci-Thode autographs “Dragon Whisperer”

NaNoWriMo helped make my debut novel possible, so no matter where it goes, no matter where I go, it will always have a special place in my heart.  One of the best things about NaNo, (for some wierd reason, participants tend to call the event “NaNo” and refer to ourselves as “WriMos”) is that it helps focus us on writing.  When you are just trying it on, or if you’re a self publishing novelist, this alone can be incredibly valuable.   For me, even if I am totally unprepared (which seems to happen more often than not), and even if I know that competing calls on my time, and personal obligations may mean that I probably won’t “win” by writing 50,000 words of a novel, I’m still inclined to participate every year.   Because I get something out of it.

This year I’ve decided I will be redoing my unfinished project from last year.  It’s my first attempt at a historical novel, but it went off the rails last year since  the research was so compelling it became clear my project was just too big for a single novel.   So I’m starting over.  Later on, some of the things that I wrote last year will probably be incorporated in one of the novels, but that won’t happen until the first draft’s editing phase.

autograph signing


Jazz Age Laurel

Jazz Age Laurel … my Hallowe’en costume was inspired by the era in which my novel Unregrettable trilogy is set.

Last night was my local region’s Hallowe’en kick-off party, which is one of the few events that don’t feature actual writing.  (Traditionally the other two non-writing events are the Half-Way Party and the After Party.  For the most part, every thing else is a write-in.)   I was lucky enough to win the best of the raffle prizes– a copy of “Dragon Whisperer,”  a book written by Vanessa Ricci-Thode, one of my local NaNoWriMo group’s Municipal Liaisons.

Of course, I can’t wait to read it… which would be a wonderful way to procrastinate instead of working on my NaNoWriMo project.  [As a group, writers are some of the most prolific procrastinators in the world!]   But today’s procrastination effort is this blog post, so Dragon Whisperer will have to wait its chance 🙂

So here’s wishing all my fellow WriMos get what they need from NaNo this year… good luck!

And now it’s time to go write a few thousand words…


Time to Re-engage in Writing

self portrait reflection photograph of Laurel taken at Kwartzlab

I’ve been distracted by a great many things in my life over the past several months, and am now trying to disenentangle a bit so I can re-engage in the writing part of my life. So today when I stumbled into Litchat, one of my favorite Twitter writing “chats” I stopped in for a while and had a rolicking good time. Connecting with other writers and getting an opportunity to talk shop is important for writers, especially as most of who tend to write in isolation.

LitChat, hosted by Carolyn Burns Bass takes place every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on Twitter. Chats consist of tweets using the hashtag #litchat. It’s possible to follow and participate in the chat from the #litchat Twitter search page or from the external Nurph Litchat service and it seems that Tweetchat is back up and running as well. To use Nurph or tweetchat you’ll need to sign in with your Twitter account. Aside from making it easier to follow the largely freewheeling conversation, the services have the advantage of automatically attaching the #litchat hashtag, which makes participation so much easier. As often happens, my conversation continued even after the formal chat.

Today’s Litchat has been published on Storify if you’re interested in checking it out: LitChat: Dan Harmon Story Circle, Part One

Now I need to get my first draft polished and off to beta readers, beta read my brother Larry Russwurm‘s collection of short stories, *and* get ready for NaNoWriMo. October will be a busy month.

I wish I’d had a chance to meet Elmore Leonard

Some of my Elmore Leonard booksToday we lost one of the great writers of our time, Elmore Leonard. Mr. Leonard was at home writing westerns and crime fiction, but he wasn’t a genre writer, he was a ‪#‎writer‬.

I wish I’d had a chance to meet Elmore Leonard, although if I had, I would probably have been too tongue tied to actually open my mouth. His novel “Hombre” was adapted into a powerful movie I saw when I was a kid, but I didn’t know that until much later when my soon-to-be husband first introduced me to his crime fiction.

Leonard’s dialogue came alive on the page, and many of his characters are nothing less than memorable. He was one of the men who write great female characters like Jackie Brown and Karen Cisco. Not to mention great male characters, like Chili Palmer and Raylan Givens. He’s left behind a legacy of wonderful prose.

Thank you, Mr. Leonard.

npr: Crime Novelist Elmore Leonard Dies

NYT: Elmore Leonard, 1925-2013
A Novelist Who Made Crime an Art, and His Bad Guys ‘Fun’