Sep 22, 2010

To cliché or not to cliché? That is just a stupid question.


1. Overused expression: A phrase or word that has lost its original effectiveness or power from overuse.

2. Overused idea: An overused activity or notion.

Let me first say that anything that isn’t cliché today will be cliché tomorrow. Tomorrow’s cliché was today’s speech or actions. Today’s speech or action was yesterday’s primal grunts and hand signals…

We continue to evolve as a species and the biggest way to do that is by communication. Communication is simply a series of sounds, symbols, or sensations that spark a familiar form of reason or understanding in our brains ideally from overuse and repetition. So, in affect our very speech is cliché. Our lifestyle is cliché. What we eat is cliché. Our hobbies are cliché. Our clichés are clichés. Yes, I am attempting to create cliché as cliché.

It is best not to overuse anything because redundancy just becomes annoying much like the paragraph above. We cannot remove cliché from speech unless we remove speech from speech.I think that the cliché epidemic has caused too many people to become paranoid over the whole thing. That and the smarter some people get the dumber they behave.

What would happen if the writer was eventually weeded out of the writing and all stories were made to sound the same, like a cookie cutter voice? If that were ever to happen then the voice of a single writer would no longer exist and books would be produced like a factory: Stamped with a company name and not an author.

Writers would then all become employees under a company like a job and work 8-5. No royalties, no advances, but maybe a good dental plan. Consumers would no longer look for a favorite author they would just look for a favorite publishing company. The individual would now be obsolete and expendable. Older authors would probably be replaced by younger authors and quality replaced by quantity.

Eventually they would create an A.I. that could now replace the writers entirely and no one would notice because all writing would be the same anyway.

Some may welcome such a future but where would such an ideology bring us? Well, it would bring us wealthy publishing houses at the expense of poor writers. So, in this perspective, a little cliché or distinctive voice isn’t such a bad thing. A writer who uses repetition set apart from the format of other writers is using independent cliché to make his/her voice stand alone. Personally, I see nothing wrong with that. In that argument, however, if you are using cliché of other writers to stand out then you are stealing ideas to promote yourself and that is wrong. If you are using said clichés to honor a well known writer and it is done with that intent then it is acceptable.

So now we can agree that Clichés are not wrong if used correctly.

An example of a ludicrous cliché rule is, “You can’t use a mirror in a story to describe your character’s features.” What idiot created that rule? What else would you use a mirror for? I use a mirror everyday and I may not always love what I see but it is my features that I look at and not the wall behind me.

A gray area cliché is, “His nerves were tight like steel.” Good for Robert E. Howard but now considered cliché to us.

An appropriate cliché, “If it aint broke don’t fix it.”

And now for a prime example of cliché, “I saw that coming a mile away.” (Let me guess, you saw that cliché a mile away?)

Sometimes an apple really is just an apple. So, let’s not get carried away before we all get replaced by machines.

…Or perhaps we already are.

Aug 13, 2010

What makes a professional writer?

Are you a professional writer?

Some newbies to the fiction world tremble in fear at the very thought of considering themselves professionals. They may voice it in hushed whispers, as if a circle of professional writers will leap out of the shadows and commence stoning them to death.

When can you say with a clear conscience and no ambiguity that you are in fact a professional writer? Should you say it at all? Should others praise (or not) your writing abilities and yourself refrain from the subject all together?

…Indeed, should you?

Are you a professional writer? Are you an imposter? Are you an amateur with a desire or perhaps a facade of grandeur?Do you have a degree in English Literature and believe that qualifies you as a professional writer? Does it? Should it?

Hit a nerve, did I?

I was encouraged by many English teachers to pursue a career as a writer. My Freshman English teacher, however, was not one of them. She happened to be a published writer and discouraged anyone from pursuing such a goal. In fact, she seemed to teach that writing was a nearly unobtainable rite of passage that very few could dream of accomplishing. If false writers were stoned to death, you better believe her stones would have caused the deathblows.

So then, the question remains, what is a professional writer and indeed, are you?

One proper explanation for a professional writer is one who makes a living writing. In this economy, that would narrow down the pros handsomely, wouldn’t it?

In that case, small press writers would never be considered pros unless they are selling thousands of novels and can sustain themselves financially. If you happen to be a fantasy or science fiction writer, does being a member of the SFWA declare your heir of professionalism? Couldn’t hurt, dare I say anyone who is a member of the SFWA is a professional writer but not all professional writers are members of the SFWA.

If you happen to be a self-sustaining writer then bravo for you and I tip my proverbial hat in your honor(Insert chorus here).

Seriously, does monetary gain alone promote you as a professional writer? Did Homer (if indeed Homer existed as a single entity) make money off of writing or was he a wandering vagabond poet at the mercy of others’ hospitality? Many of the great writers didn’t become popular until after death. So what, do you write on their tombstone, “In life he wrote but in death he became a professional writer?”

Well then we can surmise with this argument that monetary gain alone does not qualify one as a writer of proper professional status, right?

Let’s venture another possibility. Does the number of sales alone grant you the title of professional writer? Is it gauged by the number of books you sell? Hmm… but what if you don’t write novels? What if you spent your life just hacking out short stories? How many published short stories qualify you as a professional writer? Ten, fifty, a hundred or a thousand?

Is it the millionth published word count that lifts you to the heir of a pro? Is it the air itself? In that case we all need to move to La Rinoconada, Peru and perhaps we’ll strike gold.

...A million words published is like ten average sized novels (100k words) or about four hundred short stories or articles averaging 2500 words each.

...La Rinoconada is a gold mine located in the Peruvian Andes at an elevation of 5100 meters, that’s about 16,728 feet and over three times the elevation of Denver, Colorado.

Confused? Good that means you are thinking.

What is confusion but our inability to understand intelligent structure or fear of not being able to categorize that structure in an ordered fashion?

I had fear of going to the bathroom when I was a kid. Always thought the toilet was going to suck me in…Go ahead, laugh. I think it actually did once.

Anyways, fear and doubt does play a huge role in the ability to call yourself a professional writer. However, it does not mean you are one just because you have the guts to say so; and it doesn’t mean you aren’t one because you will not say so.

What is the point of all this?

Sometimes it is better to let others praise you and simply refer to yourself as a writer. As a writer you will always be loved and hated. This is the path of all who choose to entertain. You may be a great writer in the eyes of one reader and a slack hack in the eyes of another. Sometimes that opinion may be shared by the same reader.

You may even get people who say they wrote a story once, tried writing a novel or had a family member who could write. Perhaps they’ll mention that they wrote some in college and the teachers were impressed. In other words: “I have a vague recollection of what you do, but that is really as far as my interest goes.”

Perhaps you will get hit with, “Do you make any money?”

“No, not really,” you may reply.

“You must not be very good at it,” they may say with a flutter of eyes-so-innocent. Or they may simply reply, “Then why do you do it?”

You’ve heard about the starving artist? Well, writing is an art and many writers struggle to make income based on just writing. Very few can make a living as a writer. It isn’t easy to do and you have to be a really talented hack to do it.

I do mean hack as in articles, nonfiction pieces and the concept of selling numerous manuscripts. Yes, novelists and short story writers can make money and sometimes really good money. Most of the prominent writers are an environmental adaptable species: Ergo, they go where the money can be made and usually that money is made in freelance non-fiction articles.

So what is a professional writer?

A professional writer is someone who gets paid for his work or at least could get paid for his/her work. If you aspire to be a writer, I hope one day your dream will come true.

Just remember that dreams—all dreams—remain so until you as an individual decide to make it a reality. In writing, that means write, write some more, write often and don’t stop. Words on paper are never transformed into life until they are created with blood, sweat and many tears. In other words, love what you do and do it even when you don’t want to.

I will part with a quote from Richard Bach:

“A Professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”

So don’t quit and remember you are the only one keeping you from your pen, quill, feather or key pad.

So, happy writing—professionally speaking, of course!

May 17, 2010

Eugie Foster


I have been gone for a while and my wife would never argue that point. I’ve had some health issues that have placed me a little under the weather. Not sure how much time I will be able to dedicate to this site but I will chuck something out here and there. I promised Eugie Foster a showcase and although I never forgot, I sure did procrastinate.

Eugie Foster is a name in itself that sounds poetic, majestic and perhaps a little blended into the fantastic. Indeed, with further research you would discover that all of the above is true and you can add sophisticated, intelligent and highly competent to the repertoire of talents that makes the sum of Eugie Foster.

Although I have had no contact with her in a very long time (like last year) I assume she is still fine with a little free publicity.I have had numerous complications in attempting to post this so it will be in crude form. Oh well, that is that.

Truth is her websites are so concise and detailed I could hardly do them any justice.

Who is Eugie Foster? This is straight from one of her sites:

Eugie Foster:


Award-winning science fiction and fantasy writer, freelance article writer and researcher, and Editor/Director of the Daily Dragon.
Publication credits number over 100, including stories in Realms of Fantasy, Interzone, Cricket, Cicada, Fantasy Magazine, Apex Magazine, Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show, and Baen's Universe; podcasts Escape Pod, PodCastle, and Pseudopod; and anthologies Best New Fantasy (Prime), Heroes in Training (DAW), Magic in the Mirrorstone (Mirrorstone), and Best New Romantic Fantasy 2 (Juno Books).

Short story collection Returning My Sister's Face and Other Far Eastern Tales of Whimsy and Malice debuted March, 2009, from Norilana Books.
Articles and interviews have appeared in Strange Horizons, Fantasy Magazine, the Internet Review of Science Fiction, Writing-World, and Absolute Write. Co-authored a textbook resource on child development, published by Allyn & Bacon.

Honestly I couldn’t do better than the information already available so check her sites:

Eugie Foster Web Site:

This is her official web site chucked full of all kinds of goodies from her bio, career, talents and lists of literary works and dedication to the literary world.

Her Blog:

Seriously, where does she find the time to blog? If I could do a fourth of her active lifestyle I would be happy :)


*Attention all geeks and nerds*

Eugie Foster is the Director\Editor of the Daily Dragon the onsite newsletter of Dragon*Con and is a Director of the said Dragon*Con. If you are fortunate to set foot in the Dragon*Con—and I strongly encourage anyone who can possibly attend one to do so—you would see her there hard at work and putting others hard at work if she could :) Jason M. Waltz-CEO of Rogue Blades Entertainment would gladly attest to that.
I would give my right boot to attend a Dragon*Con once in my lifetime but opportunities for that are slim for a fellow Akronite such as myself.
Well, as promised here is a short and sweet showcase of Eugie Foster.

-From the editors, writers and producers of the Christopher Marshall Showcase.

Current staff: One (and sometimes that is debatable.)

Christopher Marshall, Nerd at Large