Monday, November 29, 2010

Joy of Writing Sex

The Joy of Writing Sex: A Guide for Fiction WritersI've read more than a dozen books on writing, and The Joy of Writing Sex: A Guide for Fiction Writers is one of my favorites. I don't remember when I read the book, I don't even know what happened to my copy. But I clearly remember the good advice and two of the examples used to illustrate that advice.

Having read a few dozen (hundred?) erotic stories, I can safely say that most read essentially the same. You could copy the scene from one book to another with little to no changes.

Benedict describes how to write unique sexual scenes by basing the description in the characters' perceptions. One of the best examples is short scene described from a musician's point of view. The sex is described in musical terms of 'beat', 'harmony', and 'rhythm'. Another example is about an immigrant woman. The sexual scene, as described from her viewpoint, shows the contrast between the room she's currently occupying and where she previously lived.

I haven't done justice to the examples. You have to read them to see how they work and why they provide a unique reading experience. But I can tell you that Benedict's advice, writing in terms that are unique to your POV character, is good advice for any fiction writer. And her examples illustrate her advice excellently.

I recommend The Joy of Writing Sex to all aspiring writers (especially you guys at mcstories and

Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

Agent to the Stars was the 4th Scalzi book I've read and enjoyed. This is not hardcore science fiction like Old Man's War. It's a light farce in a sci fi setting, like The Android's Dream.

The Yherajk are an alien race that want to start diplomatic and trade relations with Earth. Except that they have a problem. They look like jell-o and smell like rotting fish. Scalzi's main character, Thomas Stein is a smart, ambitious and capable Hollywood talent agent. He's a rising star within the agency where he works. So he's the perfect choice to facilitate humanity's introduction to an alien race. He becomes their agent.

The action proceeds from 'a typical day in the life' to absurd, through tragedy, to even more absurd. The writing is smooth and engaging, the characters are very likeable. Scalzi also includes a bit of a philosophical discussion about the morality of the alien's ability to possess and control other sentient life forms; just enough to stimulate the reader's mind, but not so much as to distract from the characters or the enjoyable story.

This book is a fast, easy read. Anyone who enjoys sci fi or light farcical comedies will enjoy Agent to the Stars

Sunday, November 28, 2010

D'Addario Composite Guitar Strings twang

D'Addario Pro-Arte EJ46C Heavy Nylon Composite Classical Guitar StringsA few weeks ago,  I was trying to play a song with several whole notes held while playing a small scale, and I couldn't sustain the whole notes long enough. So my guitar teacher suggested I try the D'Addario Pro-Arte EJ46C Heavy Nylon Composite Classical Guitar Strings.

These strings do seem to have a longer sustain than the strings I was using before, but I didn't like the initial tonal quality. When I first put the EJ46C strings on my guitar, they had an awful twangy tonal quality.  It took about 2 1/2-3 weeks for that twang to disappear. Now they sound better, closer to the soft mellow tone that I prefer. (Except the G-string, of course)

I prefer the tonal quality of the D'Addario Pro-Arte EXP44 Extra Heavy Nylon Coated Classical Guitar Strings, but the fact is, I do have relatively weak fingers, and I find it more difficult to hold longer notes on these strings. Not sure if I'll go back them or try to find something in between.

Edit, Jan 4, 2011. I've had the strings on my guitar for a few months now. And I like them even less. The sound quality seems to be affected by the atmospheric humidity. The drying the air, the worse these strings sound.  

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Parallelities by Alan Dean Foster

Parallelities by Alan Dean Foster

I consider myself to be a casual/occasional fan of Alan Dean Foster. I've read about a dozen of his books and found them all to be moderately enjoyable.

Parallelities is about a sarcastic and imaginative tabloid reporter who suddenly begins traveling through parallel dimensions. The plot is hardly original. Heinlein's Job: A Comedy of Justice used the same plot, as did the Star Trek TNG episode, Parallels. However, where STC was a serious episode, and Heinlein was poking fun at religion, Foster pokes fun at someone else who really deserves it, tabloid reporters.

Foster's character, Max Parker is an arrogant, sarcastic and imaginative writer with no social conscious or professional ethics. He embellishes his stories for entertainment value and has no qualms about it. So it is both poetic and supremely ironic that his life suddenly becomes even more fantastic than the stories he writes. Moving swiftly from one world to the next he never has time to adjust or get his bearings. He meets his counterparts, then aliens and their counterparts. The events/worlds get more and more absurd. And because things are happening to himself, there is no outside verifiable source, he is not allowed to write about what's happening. Ironic, yes?

While reading the book, I thought it went on a little too long. But as I think back on it now, I realize that the length worked for Foster's purpose. Parker isn't just shifting into parallel worlds, he's descending into madness, a personal hell where he can no longer tell what is real and what is fake. It's the perfect punishment for a tabloid reporter, or any reporter who embellishes their reports for entertainment's sake.

If you're a fan of satire, poetic justice, irony, or Alan Dean Foster,Parallelities is worth reading.