JM Williams

A home for all things fantasy and sci-fi.

REBLOG: The Adventures of Iric Review

Dec
30

Thank you, Victorique, for the great review. I am surprised I got off so well. For those who don’t know, she is usually very hard on books! A 4 of 5 is a great score from her.

I really like this anthology. It doesn’t need you to constantly change characters, but each chapter is indeed a story. Resembles a serial in its own way but very much is still made up of pieces that all together work. Each one telling a little more about Iric as he begins to experience life. From […]

via Adventures Of Iric — Dreamingmtthoughts

REBLOG: Man vs. Self – A Guide to Writing Internal Conflict — R. Morgan Stories

Dec
28

Here’s a great rundown of psychological struggles for you characters that I couldn’t help but share. R. Morgan does a great job distilling concepts like gestalt down into digestible bits. Some of you might recognize the must vs. need conflict, which I think is very similar or the same as the “truth and lie” concept in character arcs. All in all, a good post that might be a”good starting point for a character who seems to have no or very little development.”

~J.M.

A psychological point of view to writing internal struggles

via Man vs. Self – A Guide to Writing Internal Conflict — R. Morgan Stories

REBLOG: An Open Letter to Netgalley and Goodreads

Dec
17

Thanks to Laura for sharing this important information. I have just started on Goodreads as an author, have my first book listed on my account, and have yet to start working on giveaways (though I planned to). I am an American writer, and write in a genre that is more popular in the US (SF/F) but many of my blog followers are international peers, and I love that. I have already run into trouble trying to get copies of my book to them through Amazon (I’ve ended up having to manually send MOBI files). I recently did a giveaway on Amazon, which was only available for US residents. I was hoping to do more with Goodreads. If anyone is concerned about this issue, please read the original post in full.

~J.M.

via An Open Letter to Netgalley and Goodreads

SHARE: Ships Made of Guns, by MV Melcer

Sep
14

This one didn’t hook me until the very end. The beginning seemed a bit conventional, almost as if I had read it before. The final twist was interesting, and the author did a great job getting a full plot into so few words. I was surprised by the completeness of it all.

But because it has a full plot, I was left wondering about the character arc here. Is this a flat arc, where the character doesn’t change the but the world changes around him? If so, it seems to miss the element of doubt that makes the character relate-able. This character feels a bit too self-righteous.

But all in all a decent little story.

~J.M.


Ships Made of Guns

When the invaders appeared, I had no choice. I lowered my head and opened my arms to greet them. Some of us tried to fight, against my warnings, but the orbiting gunships put a quick end to the resistance. I made sure everyone learned the lesson: their ships are made of guns. You cannot stop them…READ MORE

SHARE: We were Goblins – DSF

Sep
05

I love the premise of this story. It feels like one of those classic boy’s life, first-person narrative stories that I read to excess when I was young, but with the obvious twist in being from the point of view of goblins in a fantasy world, rather than boys growing up in rural Iowa.

I have to admit though, the title and first line had me expecting for them to actually turn out to be human boys in the end. The first sentence “We were goblins that summer,” implies it was a temporary condition. I’m guessing the author was going for the idea that these young gobs were true to their stereotypical nature that summer, but it’s not very obvious. Also, I feel like the narrative voice should be different, if this character is truly a goblin and not a boy from Iowa.

Regardless, it’s a fun read and I urge you to check out the full text.

~J.M.


We were Goblins

We were goblins that summer. Fire-roasted rabbit to eat and muddy pond water to drink. Howling at the stars at night. Groggy and green till afternoon. Cage and I hobbled everywhere during those sweltering days, sweat dripping down our youthful, twisted faces. Long on ears, short on experience, smelling like gutted, discarded fish…READ MORE

SHARE: A Seed in the Ground, by Shannon Fay

Aug
26

I’ve been a fan of Shannon Fay ever since I read her micro story “To Give You the Night Sky.” I’m not sure how to classify her as an author. She has several stories in professional publications but no book release.

(Many of these stories are with Daily Science Fiction, to which I am jealous. I have submitted several stories to them and got a rejection for each. Despite their supposed blind reading, it is growing more evident to me that they have a preference for authors they already know.)

I guess I would rate Fay as a lower-tier pro, the sort I’d like to be in a couple years. Maybe on the same level as Karl Gallagher, another rising author I like. As such, she’s a good role model for me as a new writer.

Anyways, to get back to the main point of this post, I’d like to share another great story by Fay. This one is a tragic fantasy piece with some very strong character and world-building. Really, the only fault I can find with this one is the title, which doesn’t really draw attention or encompass the story and theme of the work very well. As with “To Give You the Night,” this one deals with the emotional tolls of conflict. I really love the concept of the seed and how it is used, both metaphorically and biologically. I’d say more, but I don’t want to spoil the story.

Without further ado, here’s the link.


A Seed in the Ground

I was the one who told Rhiz about the Folx bush.

“It flowers in the spring, little pink blossoms that sit on thick, knobby branches,” I said, placing the seed in Rhiz’s hand and folding her fingers over it. “When you try and trim it, it just grows back stronger. Tearing one out of the ground is like trying to rend a full-grown oak. It’s hale and tough and beautiful, just like you.”…READ MORE

SHARE: Is Science Fiction Dying?

Aug
06

As a routine submitter to the Writers of the Future Contest, I get weekly and monthly newsletters from them with interesting articles on writing and sci-fi.

One of the articles sent out this week was from famous sci-fi author Orson Scott Card. In it, Card offers his thoughts on why sci-fi seems to be struggling as a genre, at least in traditional formats.

Card does a great job of digging into common theories about sci-fi’s decline, which you should certainly read over, but I have a couple thoughts to add.

First, sci-fi in the past was not that great. Excluding Vonnegut, most of the well-known science fiction writers never made it into the top tiers of literature. Most people lay the blame at the feet of academia for rejecting sci-fi for being different. That is certainly true to an extent, but I also think sci-fi authors deserve some of the blame. If you look back on classic science fiction–which I am doing now as a student of my genre, trying to learn my roots and improve my own stories–you realize it had a lot of problems. Even the most famous works are far from masterpieces, despite what Science Fiction teachers and critics internal to the genre will tell you. Frank Herbert’s epic Dune suffers from what would now be considered amateurish and unnecessary shifts in narrative point-of-view. Starship Troopers, Ender’s Game, and countless others suffer from cardboard protagonists that lack emotional depth or agency.

To be blunt, nothing in sci-fi has ever reached the level of Tolkien’s work, and for good reason–most sci-fi writers have been scientists or science-centric by trade rather than lit majors. Beyond Tolkien, many epic fantasy writers have writing backgrounds: George R.R. Martin in Journalism, Terry Brooks in English, Brandon Sanderson in English, Patrick Rothfuss in English, etc.

It, in fact, seems common for those who study literature and writing to drift into fantasy rather than sci-fi. I did. Sci-fi could almost be described as anti-literature. Studying lit teaches you to focus on the character above all else; the character is the vehicle of the story, the purpose of it, and the means of connecting to the reader. Science Fiction often sacrifices the character for the sake of the concept or plot, as was the case in the titles mentioned above. Though I write in both genres, I most often find myself in fantasy because when I am focused on a good character, I find the explanation and exploration of ideas to be a distraction from what I am trying to do. Even the hardest sci-fi I have written so far seems to be light on concept in favor of character.

A second idea that comes to mind is the prevalence of escapism in pop culture. Fantasy tends to be escapist, whereas sci-fi is introspective, conceptual, thought-provoking. Sci-fi does take more effort to read and appreciate. I wonder what it would look like if you looked at sci-fi and fantasy sales over time and compared that to the rise and fall of escapism in other media such as films. I feel like we are living right now at a time where people are craving escapism. The world is dark, the news gloomy. Is it any surprise that epic stories about heroes and evil being defeated are popular? Star Wars emerged at the peak of the Cold War and is about as pure of an escapist work as you could hope to find.

Well, those are just my additional thoughts on the subject. To read the rest, follow the link at the end of the excerpt below.

~J.M.


Are We at the End of Science Fiction? By Orson Scott Card

These aren’t the best of times for science fiction.

The magazines, from the venerable Fantasy and Science Fiction to the once-dominant Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine are at astonishingly low circulation levels, and even that bastion of idea-oriented (“hard”) science fiction, Analog, is hurting.

But those are the short stories, and they have long been an anomaly inside the genre. Long after short stories became a dead issue in popular reading, and the old fiction magazines either died or found new kinds of content, science fiction stories persisted. It’s possible that the decline of the magazines only means that science fiction is catching up with—or falling down with—the rest of the literary world…READ MORE

SHARE: DSF – Story Time by Laura Anne Gilman

Jun
20

This is a nice little story with great narrative voice…despite having almost no narration. The dialogue exchange really delivers that childish curiosity. And the revelation at the end is heartbreaking.

That being said, the work is not without its problems. I question the choice of the word “youngling.” Why not simply use “child”?  In this case, the word “youngling” does little to deepen the story or build the world. All it does for me is bring up the Prequels…Bleh. I think a good rule to follow is: if a simpler word is available to use, it is often the best to use it.

Also the POV in the limited bits of narration is inconsistent. In one place it is distant and omniscient, in another it is deep and limited. I’d think if you’re going to only have three lines of narration, that you’d want to make sure they all sync together well. But maybe that’s just me.

All in all, though, its a great little story that deserves a higher rating than it has right now. Head over to the site and give Laura some rockets!

Source: Daily Science Fiction :: Story Time by Laura Anne Gilman

The Wonderful Rikki-Tikki-Tavi

Jun
11

One of my favorite cartoons when I was young was the 1974 Chuck Jones animated version of “Rikki Tikki Tavi,” narrated by Orson Wells. The classic video can now be accessed in a public archive HERE.

This might seem a bit odd, since I was born exactly a decade after this production was released and had many newer choices like He-Man, GI Joe, and Ninja Turtles to choose from. There’s something magically heroic about the story of a little rodent fighting of frightening snakes and saving a gentle family. Of course, you could read a bunch of post-colonial stuff into Kipling’s work, but if you treat your entertainment too seriously you’ll never be happy.

Now before you call foul for me discussing this sort of story on my fantasy/sci-fi blog, remember, its a story about talking animals. If that is not fantasy, I don’t know what is.

Recently I showed the cartoon to a group of Korean fifth and sixth graders in one of my English classes. I wasn’t sure how they would react. When they first saw the animation they laughed and mocked the outdated look. But eventually, they were drawn in, just as I had been when I was young. This was the case, even without Korean subtitles and with the students’ limited English. There’s truly something enchanting about the old show.

After this most recent viewing, I decided to read the actual story. (The work is in the public domain and I will post a link to the full text below.) I was surprised at how closely the cartoon followed the original text. It was a very faithful rendition.

Here’s an ARTICLE suggesting the story to be the “best short story of all time.”

The story is not without its problems, at least for modern readers. The POV jumps from time to time without sufficient warrant. Also, being a story about animals, there is often little motivation offered for why the characters do what they do. Why is Chuchundra always scared, for example? At the time it was written, writing was not as tight of an art as it is now. Author’s have learned and developed a great deal over the past century. One of the things that stands out to me now is how fast Rikki goes into fight and kill mode. Killing is easy for him and this is never questioned. Of course, its natural for a mongoose, but strange in comparison to modern stories that are perhaps more prudish than the wanton violence and prejudice of the past.

I had another though while I was reading the original story: Why hasn’t this story been retold? Has it, and have I just missed it? Many fairy tales have been reproduced and reinterpreted hundreds of times. Speaking of fairy tales, I have written a novella draft for a re-imagining of the old Hans Christian Andersen story “the Nightingale,” changing the Chinese myth into a traditional medieval fantasy story.

That got me thinking, why not try my hand at Rikki Tikki Tavi? I’m thinking to extend this one out to a novella as well, and likely going to do a first-person perspective. It’ll probably be Rikki’s POV, but maybe I could do Darzee or even Chuchundra. There is so much detail in the story already, but so much that is left unsaid. There’s so much that happens off stage–Rikki growing up and learning from his mother, Rikki getting swept up in the storm, the origin of the British family and the politics surrounding their estate, Darzee’s family’s encounters with the cobras. There are even characters mentioned that never really appear, such as Chua and the Coppersmith. I really want to dig into these characters and see where they take me.

What do you think, dear readers? Do you think a novella starring Rikki the Valiant would be a fun idea?

Originally, I was going to post the full text here, but I came across a website that has great illustrations with their text.

The story can be found HERE.

SHARE: 5 Things Being a Journalist Taught Me About Writing Fiction

Jun
10

People come into writing from different places, and every author’s unique experience reveals something about the writing process. Martinez offers several good tips here, but numbers three and four really stand out for me.

Good dialogue can help keep a story interesting. You can maintain momentum by delivering background and exposition in dialogue, rather than in data-dumps. But I don’t think readers will necessarily notice good dialogue. On the contrary, bad dialogue stands out. It draws the reader out of the illusion.

One thing you can do to improve your dialogue is just listen to how people speak around you. Some writing gurus will tell you to avoid “ahs” and “ums” in your dialogue, but I disagree. Filler words are a real component of natural speech, so why avoid them? Unless you intend your dialogue to sound artificial.

Martinez also mentions word choice and efficiency. This is a very important skill for fiction writers to develop. Efficient prose will make your story read much better. It will improve your flow. Part of the problem fantasy authors face now is that agents and publishers expect, even demand, overly high words counts for novels which results in long, dry exposition and filler.

Well, that’s my spiel. Head over to the original article and check out all the tips this journalist-turned-author has to offer.


Former journalist and current thriller writer Michael Martinez shares five things that journalism taught him about writing fiction—including paying attention to details, researching, and economy of words.

Source: 5 Things Being a Journalist Taught Me About Writing Fiction | WritersDigest.com