Dialogue Cheats

Howard ZebrasI was sending some advice along to a young writer friend last night, and I thought (I hope) that it might be of use to other writers, so I’m pasting it below.

I suppose I should make clear that I’m not one of those writers who feels you can only use “said” to indicate when someone is speaking, or that you have to avoid using adjectives with “said.” Sometimes I run across reviews that criticize an author for employing descriptive modifiers to “said.” I find that kind of criticism misguided.

I understand that almost any writing technique used to excess can be ridiculous, and this avoidance of using anything apart from said probably stems from having read fiction that’s tortuously laden with adjectives. (Have you ever read those books where the writer goes so far out of the way to NOT use said that it’s cringe inducing?). Using ONLY said isn’t the fix, though. It’s like killing the patient to stop the disease. Said isn’t completely invisible, and leaning only upon it is likewise overuse. A writer should use every trick he or she has to convey their story.

With that preamble out of the way, here are some dialogue cheats. Read More




Love Your Character

hulk computerI guess it should probably go without saying that if you want to write fiction well you have to be in love with your characters. I don’t mean the creepy, smoochy Pygmalion kind of love. I’m talking about finding them fascinating, interesting, compelling and simply fun to work with.

If you’re familiar with my writing mistakes list then you know my caveat that if you have to invent scenes to give a character something to do that character may not belong in the narrative anymore. All fiction writing is inventing scenes for characters to act in, of course, so what I mean by that is that if the character doesn’t fit into the narrative well, or you’re repeatedly stumped finding things for that character to do in the story, maybe the character doesn’t belong. Read More




The Power of Tregillis

mist2Bill Ward and I have been dependably bringing you re-reads on Friday now for over a year, with very few delays. I’m sorry to say that this week we’ve another. Bill was having some computer issues, and I was having some “this story’s too long for me to finish quickly” issues, so we’re delaying our final re-read for this book until next Friday. After that, we’ll be reading the Del Rey volume The Coming of Conan, which, as you probably know, is a collection of witty and mannered short stories set during the British Regency. We hope that you’ll join us for that one, which is surely among Jane Austen’s very best.

Normally I’d have squeezed time in to read “Adept’s Gambit” over the course of a week. It’s not THAT long. I blame Ian Tregillis. You see, when I wasn’t hunched over a final re-read of Beyond the Pool of Stars or re-writing my new draft of For the Killing of Kings (a title that will probably have to change, alas), I was reading two books by Ian. I’d fully meant to pace myself, thinking that I could read a few chapters of one Ian Tregillis book every night, the way I’d been doing with recent historicals. Turns out that no. Read More




Review Copies

pool of stars coverI have a limited number of review copies of my next novel, Beyond the Pool of Stars, available. If you’re a book reviewer and are interested in obtaining a copy, let me know!

Here’s the cover blurb:

Mirian Raas comes from a long line of salvagers, adventurers who use magic to dive for sunken ships off the coast of tropical Sargava. When her father dies, Mirian has to take over his last job: a dangerous expedition into deep jungle pools, helping a tribe of lizardfolk reclaim the lost treasures of their people. Yet this isn’t any ordinary job, as the same colonial government that looks down on Mirian for her half-native heritage has an interest in the treasure, and the survival of the entire nation may depend on the outcome…

Keep in mind that these are uncorrected proofs, so there may be some material in them that won’t appear in the final draft (these aren’t likely to be bonus scenes, but creative spelling, typos, and the like).

Drop me a line at jones howard at twc dot com (with no spaces) if you want to get your hands on one!




Swords In the Mist Re-Read: “The Wrong Branch”

Swords_in_the_MistBill Ward and I are continuing our read through of Fritz Leiber’s collection of Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories, Swords in the Mist. This week we’re looking at the fifth tale in the collection, “The Wrong Branch.” Read More

Lankhmar Re-Read

Swords in the Mist Re-Read: “Lean Times in Lankhmar”

Friday, June 12, 2015

Bill Ward and I are continuing our read through of Fritz Leiber’s collection of Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories, Swords in the Mist. This week we’re looking at…

Swords in the Mist Re-Read: “The Cloud of Hate”

Friday, June 5, 2015

Bill Ward and I are reading another collection of Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar stories, Swords in the Mist. This week we’re starting with the first story in the collection,…

Swords Against Death Re-Read: Conclusion

Friday, May 29, 2015

Over the last two months Bill Ward and I have been sharing our thoughts about one of my favorite short story collections, and the first sword-and-sorcery fiction I…

Swords Against Death Re-Read: “Bazaar of the Bizarre”

Friday, May 22, 2015

Bill Ward and I  are re-reading a book from Fritz Leiber’s famous Lankhmar series, Swords Against Death. We hope you’ll pick up a copy and join us. This week…

Swords Against Death Re-Read: “The Price of Pain-Ease”

Friday, May 15, 2015

Bill Ward and I  are re-reading a book from Fritz Leiber’s famous Lankhmar series, Swords Against Death. We hope you’ll pick up a copy and join us. This week…