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Lazette Gifford,
Margaret McGaffey Fisk,
Assistant Editor

Issue # 56
March/April 2010

Table of Contents

Questions for Authors

By Lazette Gifford

Copyright © 2010, Lazette Gifford, All Rights Reserved

Welcome back to more questions for authors! This issue's questions for authors produced some interesting answers, including the number of people who wrote back to say they felt they couldn't answer them. Below are the list of questions:

1. Are there any books you believe all fiction writers should read, no matter what genres they write? 2. Are there books specific to any given genre that you believe people writing that genre should read? 3. What are your favorite books?

C. J. Cherryh

1. Sophocles' plays are good. Economy of place, time, persons: great study for short story.

2. Read the foundational books in a genre as well as the more current ones. 3. Eclectic. Farnol, Tolkein, Haggard, Bradley, Leiber, Vergil, Vance, Niven-Pournelle, Asimov, you name it.

Unhappily, I can rarely read for pleasure with the schedule I keep: after a hard day writing and editing, I just want to go out and take to the ice (figure skater), or walk in the garden. My eyes aren't what they used to be, and I need a little rest from concentration.
Wave without a Shore (RSS feed blog)
A Closed Circle
With Lynn Abbey and Jane Fancher

Steve Miller

1. Besides dictionaries? No. While a certain amount of cultural literacy is useful I'm often unimpressed by the books others think I need to suffer through in order to write. I think fiction writers should read widely, in multiple genres, and with some recall that books that are seen as important by critics or readers one year are often seen as old-hat fads the year after. Read for interest and for fun.

2. Not exactly. I do think it behooves a genre writer to read across time in a genre, to know the names of the legendary writers and stories and to know why they are considered legends, and I think having a general sense of history of a genre -- what was hot 20 years ago, 40 years ago, during WW II -- even back a century or two, makes sense. Missing any single "important" book will likely not blight a writer's life or career.

3. Well, when I was in first grade it was "Green Eyes" a cat book I haven't been able to locate since third grade (this was the 1950s). Then it was the Eleanor Cameron's Mushroom Planet books, and then all of the biographies in the kid's section, and then Heinlein's Red Planet and Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and ... and this is the thing, this favorite book idea, like your favorite beverage, could and perhaps should change over time. I'm no longer a fan of Hershey Syrup chocolate milk, and the really fun Miss Pickerell books leave me cold now.

Authors -- I have favorite authors! Georgette Heyer, Andre Norton, CJ Cherryh, Roger Zelazny, Anne McCaffrey, Jim Kjelgaard, and Walter Farley, and Cordwainer Smith, and others. Some I reread when I'm tired of winter and won't touch in the summer. Want ten books, not in order of greatness, but as I recall them? 1) Janet Kagan's Hellspark. 2) Andre Norton's The Stars Are Ours. 3) Heinlein's Double Star. 4) Georgette Heyer's The Grand Sophy. 5) Farley's Island Stallion . 6)Kjelgaard's Wild Trek. 7) Jack London's Call of The Wild. 8) Dorthy Sayers' Lord Peter 9) Zelazny's Creatures of Light and Darkness. 10) Cacher of the Rye by Carl Brandon (Terry Carr). There's ten.
Liad Universe

Lazette Gifford

1. I have probably spent far too much time with new writers, but I have to say that the one thing I think all writers need to read, especially early in their careers, are books on grammar. This is a subject that I am still wrestling with but I can tell you, having read a lot of submissions over the last few years, that if you have a 'grammar clue' you are going to be far ahead of a lot of other people submitting their books.

Take the time to learn the grammar rules. Of all the rules of writing, those are the ones you are least likely to get away with breaking. Read a book or two. I know most people suggest Elements of Style, but I rather like Grammatically Correct by Anne Stilman (ISBN 0898797764) I learned more from that book than from anything else I've read.

2. I have two suggestions for things I feel everyone should read. The first is that, while it's good to read all you can in your genre, don't make yourself read books that bore you. It's obvious that you aren't their market, and that also means that the books you write will not be the market for those who love that particular work. Be wise in what you read. And read outside your genre. Learn from other types of books and bring what you learn back to your own chosen genre. Look outside the box.

And that also means to read other than fiction. I strongly suggest that people read nonfiction books -- history, science, biography -- everything that catches their attention. Don't just read them because you have to research something for your current book. Nonfiction reading will open your mind to things that fiction can't always provide. It also allows you to 'tap the source' for original material. Nonfiction books are filled with great ideas that you can adapt to any genre.

3. My tastes are eclectic in books. Some of my favorites are Dune by Frank Herbert, Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delaney, Disraeli, A Portrait of the Victorian Age by Andre Maurois, Pride of Chanur by C. J. Cherryh, Tactics of Mistake by Gordon R. Dickson, all of the Dresden File books by Jim Butcher, any history book by the historian Michael Grant (not the YA author), Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T. E. Lawrence, Catspaw by Joan D. Vinge . . . you get the idea.
Zette's Site
Farstep Station, Available at

Jack Scoltock

1. I believe fiction writers couldn’t do better than read- From the Corner of his Eye by Dean Koontz. This is a fantastic exciting moving story and I have read it several times.

2. If you are writing fantasy- please please read ANY Dean Koontz books. His latest, BREATHLESS will leave you so.

3. Anything by Dean Koontz. Down the years I have read him I have never been disappointed. I have read many of his books several times.
The Meltin' Pot From Wreck to Rescue and Recovery, published by the History Press is to be launched on March the sixth, and already released by the Inishowen sub-aqua club who found the B 17 bomber.
Challenge of the Red Unicorn is out in March aswell. Published by

Jane Toombs

1. I would encourage any writer to read some of the classics such as Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and To Kill A Mockingbird. The reason being that all of these grip a reader for different reasons. Studying the reasons for this would aid any writer.

2. The problem with this is some companies, such as Harlequin/Silhouette have a vision of how romances should be and their authors are forced to fit themselves within that vision. (Yes, I wrote for them.) The point is a writer shouldn't base a romance book from H/S as how to do it unless they want to write for that company. So, if you write romance, be sure and vary your reading among all the publishing companies who produce it. There are so many subgenres of romance, that if writers plans to do a particular subgenre, they need to focus on writers who publish in whatever one they plan to.

3. I'd rather list favorite authors, ones I come back to from time to time for atmosphere: Edgar Allan Poe; H,P. Lovecraft, The Bronte Sisters, Abraham Merritt, Rudyard Kipling. Otherwise I almost never reread books, no matter how much I might like them. I think it's because I read to find out what happens next, and once I know--that's it.

Jim Burk

1. At least two or three of the Icelandic sagas (which is where both fantasy and modern fiction started) and THE LITTLE PRINCE. And EATS, SHOOTS & LEAVES, which is a marvelous book on punctuation.

2. In fantasy and sf, LORD OF LIGHT by Roger Zelazny; Little, Big by John Crowley; A PLANET FOR TEXANS by H. Beam Piper and John Mcguire; and THE MAKESHIFT ROCKET by Poul Anderson -- the latter two showing how a story can just be fun.

3. Besides the ones already listed, fantasy and sf from the 50s and 60s by the masters, MOCASSIN TRAIL by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, JACK OF SHADOWS and A NIGHT IN THE LONESOME OCTOBER by Roger Zelazny, and THE STORY OF ROLF AND THE VIKING BOW by Allan French

. And BLUEBERRY GIRL is practically a tutorial on how to write for a younger audience.
Home is the Hunter

Darwin Garrison

1.: a) 1984 by George Orwell
b) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
c) Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
d) 2001 A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clark
e) Dune by Frank Herbert
f) The Dragon Riders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey
g) The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon
h) One Thousand Words for Stranger by Julie Czerneda
i) The Forlorn by Dave Freer
j) Redliners by David Drake
k) The core works of J.R.R. Tolkien (The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy)
l) Armor by John Steakley
> 2. If you're going to write mil-SF, you'd do well to study Baen's leading authors, Drake and Ringo, as well as Heinlein and Laumer. They're at opposite poles in terms of their approach to the subject, but both carry a great deal of following. Others to read including Kratman, Williamson, and Freer. Be wary of attempting to learn from mil-SF written by those who have not seen the elephant (Scalzi et al).

Although such works can we entertaining, they tend to lack the authenticity of those who truly know. Aping the knowledge of such works can lead to a propagation of serious errors and fallacious assumptions that will render a work "tin-eared" and shallow.

3. These are books that I read over for fun and enjoyment:
a.) The Forlorn by Dave Freer
b.) Redliners by David Drake
c.) One Thousand Words for Stranger by Julie Czerneda
d.) The Witches of Karres by James Schmitz
e.) Gust Front by John Ringo
f.) The Bolo stories written by Keith Laumer and contained in various anthologies from Baen Books.
h.) The Paladin by C.J. Cherryh

Words like winter snowflakes.
-- Homer, The Iliad