How To Make Your Prose More Poetic And Profound

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When you’re writing serious fiction in the realm of science fiction and fantasy, it’s vital to keep an edge of importance in your tone, even if you’re writing comedy. A key element of both genres is a sense of reverence, and of marvelling at the profound.

Deep Fiction, Only With Magic And Spaceships

A British author who had a smashing success, far beyond what he expected for one of his works (he had several, of varying levels of greatness), later in his life said that he wished he had said something meaningful within the breakaway work. He had made it fluffy, and almost absurdly inconsequential. Once the work did well, he wished he had put more thought into its lasting message.

He Could Have Influenced Society

Shakespeare did this all the time; he snuck nuggets of what he thought and believed about pretty much anything and everything into every corner of his plays, and anyone who really wants to have a fight with me about authorial intent can go jump in a lake.

A Dropt Love Letter

JULIA. And yet I would I had ore-look’d the Letter;
It were a shame to call her backe againe,
And pray her to a fault, for which I chid her.
What ‘foole is she, that knowes I am a Maid,
And would not force the letter to my view?
Since Maides, in modesty, say no, to that,
Which they would haue the profferer construe, I.
Fie, fie: how way-ward is this foolish loue;
That (like a testie Babe) will scratch the Nurse,
And presently, all humbled kisse the Rod?
How churlishly, I chid Lucetta hence,
When willingly, I would haue had her here?
How angerly I taught my brow to frowne,
When inward ioy enforc’d my heart to smile?
My pennance is, to call Lucetta backe
And aske remission, for my folly past.
What hoe: Lucetta.

The Silliest Of Plays

Two Gentlemen of Verona is a frothy, rubbery thing; it flops around and bends willy-nilly, but the underlying narrative structure is strong. For example, there’s that scene at the end when Valentine, in a fit of brotherly affection, attempts to gift his girlfriend Silvia to Protheus; this looks ridiculous on stage if it’s performed wrong, because Protheus just finished up trying to assault her. When you examine the light-hearted nature of the tone, the act becomes a sardonic commentary upon the frantic follies of youth and inexperience. You know, like a Simpsons episode.

But Then, Shakespeare Grasped The Importance Of Profundity

There are many scenes in Shakepseare’s plays where a heroine blusters breathlessly through a seeming-contradictory litany of “yes, I like him, but no! I don’t!” speeches. Since we just looked at Romeo and Juliet the other day, I will call up the spectre of that perfect woman, Portia, as an example of another variation on the above speech, delivered by Julia, this time rendered in the profound and poetic tone adopted by the Bard shortly after he wrote Two Gentlemen.

Portia’s Blathering (While Blushing)

PORTIA. I pray you tarrie, pause a day or two
Before you hazard, for in choosing wrong
I loose your companie; therefore forbeare a while,
There’s something tels me (but it is not loue)
I would not loose you, and you know your selfe,
Hate counsailes not in such a quallitie;
But least you should not vnderstand me well,
And yet a maiden hath no tongue, but thought,
I would detaine you here some month or two
Before you venture for me. I could teach you
How to choose right, but then I am forsworne,
So will I neuer be, so may you misse me,
But if you doe, youle make me wish a sinne,
That I had beene forsworne: Beshrow your eyes,
They haue ore-lookt me and deuided me,
One halfe of me is yours, the other halfe yours,
Mine owne I would say: but of mine then yours,
And so all yours; O these naughtie times
Puts bars betweene the owners and their rights.
And so though yours, not yours (proue it so)
Let Fortune goe to hell for it, not I.
I speake too long, but ’tis to peize the time,
To ich it, and to draw it out in length,
To stay you from election.

And Now, For Fiction

How, you may wonder, can I apply the difference between light-minded cynicism and profound poetics to my science fiction novel? Observe:

Light-Minded Writing (Acerbic Commentary):

Juhi, her snot-dried upper lip stiff with daring, took up the bowl of jingling change and skipped lightly away; behind her, the greasy barkeeper yelled in an alien tongue that sounded like fighting cats.

“Pxxthe! Cght rfopwe!” he masticated. A sprinkling of ruffians in the eatery looked at him, bored and uninterested. “I’ll pay you if you catch that whore!” he screamed in a different language, for he had command of several manners of speech.

Two heavily made-up tarts who carried vicious weapons perked up at these words and shuffled promptly out the door, their artificial hips swinging behind them. The painted ladies caught Juhi at the edge of a neon alleyway.

“Give it back,” the taller lady vociferated, one of her eyelashes bouncing loose.

“I’ll give you so much more money! Just let me go!” Juhi pleaded, her narrow chest rising and falling.

The shorter lady grabbed the bowl of out of Juhi’s hands with her painted and glued nails, and kicked at her with a ludicrously-tall plastic heel.

“How much money is there in that bowl?” the taller female asked the other one.

“Twelve whole bits and change,” the shorter one sneered, her purplish cheeks lopsided.

“I can show you where he keeps all his business funds, and help you steal it all!” Juhi cried in obvious despair.

“Get lost, wdrxth,” the tall woman said, using the word for dead dog, and she wobbled towards the bar with her friend.

Profound Prose (Reflective, Respectful Commentary):

Juhi waited until the greasy man turned his back; she lifted the tip-bowl and tore away. Behind her, the over-short barkeeper heard the jingle. He turned and cried out in an alien tongue.

“Pxxthe! Cght rfopwe!” he cried, his throat tearing over the awkward sounds of his native tongue. Several patrons of the eatery looked around at him, blank incomprehension in their eyes. “I’ll pay you if you catch that thief!” he shrieked in a more common tongue.

At these words, two rough-looking women with spears in their hands and wicked guns strapped to their wide hips sprang up and crossed towards the door. They split up on the street, and cornered Juhi at the edge of a neon alleyway.

“Give it back,” the taller woman demanded. Her face was coated with exquisite makeup, and her false lashes caught the wind and fluttered up.

“I’ll split it with you if you let me go,” Juhi said, painting hard. She inched along the wall, and the tall woman planted a platinum, steel-toed high heel against the building to block her way.

The shorter woman caught the money deftly out of Juhi’s grasp, her manicured nails clicking against the metal bowl.

“How much?” the taller female asked her companion.

“Twelve and change,” the shorter one replied.

“He keeps a vault in the back, and I know the code,” Juhi said, her face pinching with desperation.

“Get lost, you wdrxth,” the tall woman said, taking her leg down. The short woman jumped slightly forward; Juhi scrambled down the street with a cry, and the two ladies watched her run and then turned back towards the bar.

And so we see, when we approach genre fiction with an eye to sobriety, profundity, and elegance of tone, our work is elevated from a sour mockery of characters (which often comes across as bad writing) to a poetic ode to the faults in our humanity.

You’re reading Victor Poole; my books are here. The sketch above is a study of this photograph.

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Alternating Rhythm In Sentence Length And Introducing Variety In Punctuation

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To make your prose flow easily, build crescendos and rhythmic transitions into your sentences and paragraphs. (This is a picture I drew yesterday.)

Clarence’s Rhythm:

Ah Keeper, Keeper, I haue done these things
(That now giue euidence against my Soule)

Musical Rhythm Is Easy

You can do this with word size, consonant choice, phrasing, and sentence length.  Let us look at the musical composition below: Clarence begins with a soft train of vowels. “Ah, ee, ee, I, ee, ee” is followed by a parenthetical aside of a fat “Ow! Oh!,” and then finished up with a rising “A, ee, ow! K! T! E!”

Vowels Are The Soft Filling Of Words

As soon as Clarence has offered this opening salvo, he embarks into a long, vowel-stretched appeal to God and the keeper’s mercy, accompanied by the lighter consonant sounds, “th, v, g, d, ss, and n.”

See The Speech Below

When we follow Bill’s example, and arrange our internal sounds with the keeping of the scene, our sentence length and phrasing add immeasurably to the build and emotional impact of the scene.

Here Is Clarence, After His Nightmare:

Ah Keeper, Keeper, I haue done these things
(That now giue euidence against my Soule)
For Edwards sake, and see how he requits mee.
O God! if my deepe prayres cannot appease thee,
But thou wilt be aueng’d on my misdeeds,
Yet execute thy wrath in me alone:
O spare my guiltlesse Wife, and my poore children.

And Now, With Fantasy

How, might you ask, can I apply these entrancing vowel and colon tricks to my own prose? Well, let us look first at a disastrous example of non-built chaos that I whipped up with a look of pained disdain on my features:

Bad Rhythm:

The dragon, how he had crutched his eager way wandering into the arching light-bulb brilliance canyonways, was ill-forgotten. His bills extend and his arm-frills opened long they were sails in the crushed air pieces dazzling in rock walls and carrying dust probably.

His nostrils cup open and snorted, while vivid eyes are moving death in his heart from there to his teeth. Yellowed.

And now, order and musicality enacted upon said chaos:

Strong Rhythm:

White wings clenched like spans of marble, he clung to the canyon walls in the light of the sun. The shadow he cast, unearthly black, ran from end to end of the canyon floor and kissed against the tips of his claws. The dragon opened his jaw and roared, frills snapping wide at his neck and sides.

The wind swept through the canyon in an answering howl, filling his leathern skin like sails; dust expanded from his flared nostrils and hissed through his yellow fangs.

In Conclusion

Writing with rhythm and variety in your sentences requires an attention to the length of your phrasing, an eye for vowels, and a willingness to embrace joining forms of punctuation. And remember, when in doubt, go and read some original-folio Hamlet; nothing like Bard-prose whips your creative vehicle into tune like freestyle Elizabethan patter.

You’re reading Victor Poole. The image above is a study of a photo from here. My cyborg sequel is nearing completion.

How To Get More Out Of Your Metaphors

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Metaphors are a powerful vehicle for sensory work and imagery in story-telling; particularly when working on science fiction, metaphors often make all the difference between an exciting read and a boring sludge.

For Example:

Interesting Story, But No Metaphor:

My sisters were horrible people. I sold them into the hands of the conquerors using the anonymous tip kiosk, and they have made me very rich. I’ve seen images of their children; my sisters, of course, don’t talk to me, but the Ilyemni are big on social media, and I have followed both of their mistresses there.

My oldest sister has four alien children now. She is pictured with the youngest on her master’s home profile, and I can tell they’ve had her surgically altered, to put extra space in her ribs and womb. I think they will plant seedlings for joined twins in her next, human twins. I’ve heard of the aliens doing such things on the news. I hope my sister dies when the babies are born.

And Now, With Metaphors:

My older sisters were a pestilent infection in my life; they tried to erase me, to make me into their mindless plaything. When I was old enough to register, I sold both my sisters into the hands of the fish-like conquerors. You have to be blood-related to offer human slaves on the live market; the pinprick of blood in the sealed registration kiosk drained my sisters’ poison from my veins.

One woman sold for reproductive work brings a high payout; two fertile humans made me very rich. The papers say you feel guilt; this was not the case with me. Every ounce of gold I use makes thick balm flow in my spirit. I’ve seen images of my two sisters’ monstrous children; my sisters, of course, can’t talk to me, as their tongues are gone and their eyes branded, but the Ilyemni masters are big on social media, and I have followed both of my sisters’ mistresses there.

My oldest sister has four alien babies now. She is pictured with the youngest creature on her master’s home profile, and I can see by the ballooning in her skin that they’ve had her surgically altered, to put extra space in her ribs and womb. I think they will plant seedlings for joined twins in her next, human twins. I’ve heard of the aliens growing exotic playthings in their slaves, after they’ve obtained the desired number of their own children. I hope my sister dies when the babies are born.

What Have I Learned Today?

Sprinkling metaphors through your prose can add impactful imagery, strong sensory grounding, and detailed interest to a story. As an added bonus, writing metaphors is fun.

You’re reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. My books have a lot of metaphors. Rose is napping on my feet (and purring).

For Better Writing: Integrating The Disparate Parts of Self

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You are divided into several pieces; components of your overall being are often so different as to seem to come from separate beings.

Bad Writing (Analytical Thinking Absent):

Solace has never wanted so badly to run away, but her legs are pinned under a shelf, and she can’t move her lower half enough to get out. Her mind races. She wrestles the furniture, but it is lodged under one of the stones from the roof.

She hears another person crying out; she didn’t hear enough to know who it was. She grunts, and pulls harder. A tall shadow moves through heavy dust that is flying through the crushed room.

“Are you fine?” a man’s voice asked. Solace shivers; she does not know this person.

“No,” she gasps.

Good Writing (Integrated Thinking):

With a crash, the sky fell into the house, carrying with it half the roof and most of a tree from above the eaves. Her mother and father were crushed under a great stone, but Solace dove left, and she was merely pinned beneath an oak shelf, unharmed aside from bruises. She couldn’t move, and after she battered helplessly with a shard of rock at the shelf, she resigned herself to a lingering death.

She could hear a cry echoing sadly through the house; it was grandmother, she thought. Solace opened her mouth to call back, but the dust caught in her throat, and she choked and coughed, and when she got her breath back she found that her windpipe seemed to have closed up for good. She could not make a sound.

What Can You Do In Terms Of Integration?

Imagine that inside of you is a sharp line of blue-black (like the color of a healthy black horse). Now picture the ground below you, and pretend for a moment that it is a sea of white light. You know, like the lava game you most likely played as a child, and the floor was burning orange? Except this time the floor will be bright white, and it will be water, not lava.

Noe imagine your whole body, starting at your feet, and then your ankles, sinking gradually into the sea of white beneath you. Let yourself fall slowly into the white water. As the water touches up against the blue-black line, see it burn up and disappear. The line can be anywhere; it might run up your middle, splitting you in half, or it may form a vigorous jig-jag maze. Your subconscious mind is tremendous at pinning down problems you aren’t fully aware of yet; whatever you picture the line doing in your body is exactly right.

Now, relax down into the water, imagining the shining, lapping fluid rising past your knees, and your hips, and up your back. Watch the blue-black line, wherever it may be, scrub entirely away in the touch of the white water. Let your shoulders and your arms go down into the water, and then your neck. Feel your jaw lap into the white ocean, and then your cheeks. Your eyes next, and your forehead. Finally, listen to the feelings in your body as your last bit of skull sinks down into the brilliant white water.

The blue-black line is now gone. Stand up out of the water, and draw a new black line all the way around the edge of your body. You know, as if you were a body being chalked around by the police at a crime scene. Just go ahead and trace your own black line all around the verge of your being. This is an outline that separates you from the world around you; your body longs for division of some kind, and if you give yourself this outside-inside line of separation, you can avoid reforming the original fragmentation of your inner self.

You’re reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. My cat is asleep at this very minute; she’s adorable.

My Dragon Book Needs A Cover Evolution Saga:

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I had to add a couple inches of clouds. I think they look all right. (I probably shouldn’t be telling you I added clouds. Shh!)

I Added Clouds In SketchBook

Anyway, for this cover I started with an exciting mountain photo from one of the many free hi-def photo websites filling the web. (God bless all the generous European photographers who post free landscape pictures there. When I’m rich, I’m totally going to throw those little coffee buttons at them, en masse.)

I Shall Fling Many Coffee Cups

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I added text. I’ve been lurking here and there on youtube, watching tutorials for making schmancy text in Gimp. (Halla, free programs of the universe.) Hence, fancy text.

I had a silver theme going on originally (see, jpg below).

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But after some late-night Amazon Prime streaming, and too much sugar, I went crazy with some red, gold, and fiery jitter paint. Showing the result to my helpful spouse, I was informed that the resultant color scheme was “much better.” Cooler, as ’twere. More hip, in the parlance of yesteryear.

See The Result Below

Reddish theme, and some fire-smudges:

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I removed the top ridge of fire, and the upper portion of the scratchy black stuff. I also experimented with penciling gray all over the text of the title, and then blending it. I thought the resultant silver letters looked too messy, but was told they looked “awesome.”

Bending, once again, to the tide of popular opinion, I embraced the molten-silver letters and added some gold texture to the author name.

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I submitted my Createspace files for review last night (well, yesterday afternoon). Now I am waiting for my partially-automated message from the Createspace people and I will order a proof copy of my latest brain-child.

This Is The Final Cover:

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You’re reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. My new book will be out soon! Your local librarian thinks you should read my other book in the interim.

How To Align Your Head To Improve Your Writing Right Now

 

 

The way you sit and habitually arrange your muscles controls your breath; the way you breathe directly influences the amount of oxygen getting into your brain. How well your brain is working has a lot to do with the clarity of your thinking, the vividness of your sensory experience, and your ability to communicate clearly to the outside world–in this case, other people. Ergo, your breath (and with it, your particular habits of tension-holding) control the freedom of your writing mechanism. To open and free your writing ability, you must open your breathing.

Allowing The Sternum To Collapse Into Your Chest Restricts The Expansion Of Your Lungs

Try an experiment, for a moment: imagine that your hips are the walls of an oval tunnel running through your whole body. The shoulders are an important juncture in this channel. First, send your mind into your hips and pelvis, and see what the angle of your hip-tunnel is currently like. Some people tilt their hips forward, creating a sharp bend in their lower back, and some people (very few) tilt their hips back, making an unnatural angle in the lower abdomen. What you want is to have the walls of the oval tunnel, your hips, to be perpendicular to the level of the floor.

An Open Channel From Hips To Shoulders Frees The Muscles From Unnecessarily Supporting Your Body

So try for just a moment to un-tilt your pelvic cradle, and to align the oval walls of the tunnel in your hips perpendicular to the floor. When you have done this, you should feel some unfamiliar movement in your lower vertebrae, and perhaps some slight stretching in the outer muscles sheathing your upper thighs.

Next, Align The Ribs

The oval tunnel walls extend in as smooth a line as possible up from the hips through the ribs; send your awareness into the body, aligning the walls of your ribcage with the same perpendicular line you first made in your hips. Next, you are going to slightly lift your shoulders up and back, as if you were placing a final interlocking block on top of a tower. The shoulders also form part of the inner cavity, this oval-shaped tunnel we are building within your body. The outer walls of the shoulder-frame should be arranged just on top, and in line with, the ribs and the hips.

And Finally, Your Head

Your head is very, very heavy, what with all the brains and fluid you carry around up there, so it’s incredibly important that your skull and its accompanying contents are positioned easily over the center of the tunnel. Imagine, if you will, that your head is a ball, and the oval tunnel of your torso is a basket through which the ball must pass without touching against the sides.

You’re Doing It Right When You Feel A Rush Of Internal Heat

Your skeleton is designed to support the whole weight of your body, without assistance from your major muscle groups. Many, if not most of us, have been taught throughout our lives, either by stupid people or by forced constraint to perpetual sitting and slouching, to rely on our muscles to hold ourselves upright. This creates horrible tension through our whole bodies, and crushes much of our intended breath capacity. If you breathe shallowly, and in a cage of hard tension for a very long time, your mind is gradually starved of oxygen, and you stop thinking very clearly.

Breathing Better Now Improves Your Writing Immediately

Opening your body, learning to rely on the skeleton for weight-bearing, and aligning your head over the center of your shoulders, ribs, and hips, will, over time, do much to rectify this deplorable state of affairs. However, if you align your body right now, you will immediately experience a release of tension, and an influx of breath, which will improve your work right this very moment.

Blergh Writing:

Luther ran a finger along the blade of the enchanted sword.

“It is very lucky,” he intoned, his sky-blue eyes piercing through her like butter being sliced open with a hot knife, “that you brought me this weapon. It’s magical, and I think you wouldn’t have had the fortitude to handle it alone.”

“My father gave it to me,” she lied. She was a very good liar, having practiced often over her homework with the abbess of the priory.

“And what was your father?” Luther asked. A half smile passed through his skinny features.

“He got it as a present,” she said.

“Hm,” Luther replied. “I don’t believe you at all.”

“Well, it’s true.”

Better Writing:

The sword had a blue hilt, forged of the isolated rock of the gem quarries, and the blade ran out in a strong thrust from the tang. Scraps of black shadow adhered to each part of the old metal, as if ribbons of dark mold had grown up from the depths of the weapon.

She brought it in a hand-woven scabbard of green cloth. Her father had said it was a useless thing, this clasping of fabric, but Halka found it charming, and it had come with the blade. The guard of the old man’s estate was a bland old fool, and she talked her way past him in five minutes.

Halka, runaway and thief, presented the ancient blade to the old man in his study, and asked for a suitable reward. Luther, for that was the old man’s name, drew out the sword and examined the mottled blade.

“Where did you find this?” he asked, turning the blue hilt in the light from the open window.

“My father left it to me when he died,” Halka lied. Luther’s eyes traced slowly down the whole blade; he laid it down and turned his attention to the woven green scabbard.

“Your father was a valley troll?” Luther asked, amusement strong in his voice.

You’re reading Victor Poole. Sun salutation is kicking my butt right now (actually my shoulders, but hey). I would like to illustrate all of my books eventually.

Why Writing Classes Are A Waste Of Money (And What You Need Instead)

Writing classes are a waste of money (in general) because almost none (if any) of them address popularity, vicious criticism, or a broken motivation, which are the biggest obstacles to consistent writing. Close after those problems are a lack of good sense (see, blindness or dullness), lack of taste (no sense of proportion), and absence of grounding social integrity (a moral framework).

Wow, Victor! That Was Quite A List!

As in much of the performative industry, you are the product in writing, and any obstacles or shortcomings in your mind or spirit will show up in the fiction you create. I say this not to discourage you, but to illuminate what I see as a great lie in the hopeful-writers community: the idea that paying someone who has published to teach you about writing will make you good enough, polished enough, and competitive enough to win at the game, which mostly consists of people skills and marketing work.

Yes, That’s Right

I believe that people skills and marketing know-how (which consists not only of publicizing your work after it’s written, but writing towards a real market in the first place) have a lot more to do with writing success (as far as novel-writing goes) than snazzy paragraphs or engaging characters.

Heresy, Victor Poole! Now I Hate Your Guts, You Sellout!

Yeah, I know, I’m super cynical. By the way, I was eliminated from SPFBO, which I figured would happen, but at least my blogger said nice things about my book. (I have an “intriguing world,” for example.) I think people who downloaded The Slave from the East must still be reading it regularly, because my ranking has remained oddly high for the last several weeks. I was thinking of going wide, but my internet connection is currently less-than-speedy, and I’m not sure if I’ll go back into KU sometime.

So You Hate Writing Classes, Victor

Hate is a pretty strong word, but I wouldn’t spend my own money on them. I think writing classes can be a great way to connect with other people, and to learn baseline skills from really successful authors (by observing what they do, and emulating their attitudes towards writing), but I feel that people generally go into a writing class, and emerge afterwards, with either the same skills they went in with, or with lowered motivation.

Unless You Have A Great Teacher

None of what I’m saying applies one bit if a writing class has a great teacher who can connect authentically with the learners and give appropriate feedback that builds without creating obstructive discouragement. For example, I had one writing teacher (twice published) many years ago who listened to students, gave apt feedback, and just exhibited a generally helpful and connected attitude. A few months later I had another writing teacher who was frenetic, set unrealistically ambitious writing goals for the curriculum, and was more interested in showing off than in hearing or teaching students (I dropped out after a little while).

Unless You Find A Gifted Teacher, Youtube And Google Present Endless Info

Writing books is the best way to get better at writing books. Nothing prepares you for storytelling like actual storytelling, and there are rhythms and seasons in writing that you will never master unless you live them. I am not at all saying to publish what you write, until you’re writing well enough (which is a subjective matter, though I have a lot of opinions on the subject), but I am very much saying to write, write, write.

You Are Your Own Best Teacher

You are your source material, and you are both the teacher and the learner in the journey of your writerly self. No one in the world has access to you better than you do, and no one but you has that helpful feeling in your gut that directs your best efforts. Writing classes are, more often than not, nothing but a drain on your wallet. Give yourself the gift of an investment in yourself, and write part of your story today.

You’re reading Victor Poole. Mary is having fantastic adventures in the sequel to my alien novel. Stardew Valley has been a big thing in my house lately.