Category Archives: Writing Tips and Lectures

A Space Opera Selection

Who do you listen to when you write?

Dean Wesley Smith has written more than a hundred books over many years along with his wife Kristine Kathryn Rusch who has written equally as much. Both are Oregon Coast writers who know what they are talking about when it comes to writing and publishing. So it was interesting to read a blog where Dean advocated not having Beta readers or even writing groups.  https://www.deanwesleysmith.com/killing-the-sacred-cows-of-publishing-beta-readers-help-you/ His point was that in the cacophony of advice, the author ‘s voice may be lost among the mumble of suggestions, and the story damaged or diluted.

I work with both a writers’ group and Beta readers because I find their input helpful in making my story stronger.

But he has a point. A very good point.

Some writers want to polish each word to a literary high gloss, while others encourage a stampede of action and excitement to keep their readers turning the pages. Others drench their characters with emotion much like a teenager in the throes of first love. And you, as the writer, may be pushed and pulled by their suggestions.

In The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon  (mentioned in my last blog) I delighted in brilliant metaphors and similes until it became too much and felt like every third sentence was a finely crafted metaphor to show off how clever the writing was.

I love Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels Series, but the strong emotions of the characters take center stage, leaving descriptions and action to tag along.

And anyone reading space opera science fiction or a series like The Expanse knows that action is paramount. Authors are told to have the first chapter start bang with strong action that hooks the reader and fill out the characters and setting later.

So a writers should decide what his or her voice is, or it could become a hodgepodge of other people’s suggestions.

Make no mistake, suggestions are helpful and often make for a stronger work, but only after asking the question : Do I know what my voice is and is this suggestion consistent with my voice and how I want my story written?

In my last blog, I mentioned the international aspect of blogs. Writers are blogging with other writers from all over the globe. It’s quite international. But now we have come to a whole new level when Google translate can instantly translate a blog into many different languages. My friend Diana Peach wrote a guest blog today for Christopher Graham. (copy/paste)

https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/2017/10/03/world-building-from-imagination-to-reality-guest-post-by-diana-peach/?c=128961#comment-128961

The blog was excellent, but what attracted my attention was the ability to tap the drop down in the upper right hand corner and immediately have Google translate the blog into a bewildering number of languages. Take your pick.

Think about that one.

I return to space opera this week for my science fiction suggestion. David Drake is a prolific writer of science fiction with several series, and I have been meaning to read him for some time now. Written in 1992, Starliner came out in trade paperback this past June with additional content.

Third officer, Lieutenant Ran Colville, receives his staff side position of making sure all goes smoothly on board the newest and largest starship, the Empress of Earth. Even with the efficient help of the attractive lieutenant Wanda Holly, politics, greed, young love and war threaten to disrupt the orderly passage of the luxury ship with its high class passengers. And Ran’s job is to see they are happy and safe. Different chapters describe various landings on interesting worlds, each one presenting a challenge to the ship. All through the story is the threat of pirates or a military fleet from a warring planet that would love to add this majestic ship to its fleet. Jumping through wormhole, exploring exotic world, dealing with dark politics, and fending off panting women all keep Ran hopping.The Spark

Drake writes a fast-paced story but keeps in mind his characters and their various emotions that drive their actions. This book is a stand alone, but I’m certain to try out other of David Drakes stories having read this one.  Maybe this latest one.

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Filed under Alien worlds, Amazon publishing, Best selling author, Marketing and selling novels, Political Science Fiction, science fiction space opera, Writing Critique groups, Writing Tips and Lectures

Urban Fantasy in London

“Summertime and the livin’ is easy…”

Well, not if you’re scribbling away, or worse, staring over the deck while wracking your brain as to what you should write next.

I’ve been both places.

In the last hour.

So I’m going to use this blog to tidy up some odds and ends. While I was writing A World Too Far, I needed some insight into what futuristic weapons could look like. After all, Carter Wright had to come up with a defense system for the ship, and a robotic swarm seemed a natural for his talents. I found this website on futuristic weapons, some are leading edge weapons already on the battlefield, and I wanted to pass it on to my science geeks. (Overlook the ad and any click bait, because the content is interesting.)

Here’s the link : http://www.prophecynewswatch.com/article.cfm?recent_news_id=843

I used the rail gun because it doesn’t use explosives (no air in space), and the armed robot swarm. Lasers seemed like a cool futuristic weapon too.

Science fiction is just that…fiction. But it becomes much more powerful if grounded in some fact. How precise the accuracy should be, and how detailed, varies from reader to reader. I research a lot, but then when you’re skimming a black hole for the impact of the story, I sometimes make a leap of imagination. A big leap.

Never having the real experience recorded by anyone to compare notes with.

When I think of the astronomy I learned in school and what they have discovered since, I am astounded. Nothing can be ruled out as to what future discoveries might reveal.

Er, that dates me a bit.

On an entirely different subject, but another odds and ends note, I came across this article on page count. With the advent of the ebook, page count becomes not as important. No bookstore dictates shelf space and formatting is more flexible. So how has this changed page count?

The Book Designer by Joel Friedlander is a favorite website. They have an occasional blog that says, “Do This: Not That.” In June, Amy Collins did an interesting guest blog on page count.

-Here’s the link:  https:thebookdesigner.com/2017/06/book-promotion-do-this-not-that-june-2017/.

Zack Obront from Book in A Box analyzed 272 books that sat at the #1 spot on the New York Times Best Seller List over the past seven years. In 2011, the average nonfiction #1 NYT Bestseller was 467 pages long. Now it’s 273. Almost half.

For fiction, in 2011, the average Bestseller List page count was 502. This week (June 21, 2017) the average Best Seller List page count was 398. Quite a difference.

This surprised me as I thought page count would go up due to not having the shelf space worry.

But…

If you are going to offer a POD paperback, new authors are finding the cost of production eats deeply into any royalties for a long book and drives the price too high for the average reader’s pocketbook. Less buyers.

If you are beginning a book, it is good to set a goal for how long the book should be. I often use Larry Brook’s outline for pacing purposes, and it is helpful to know around what page your plot points should drop.

Amy goes on to offer suggestions on how to remedy the problem of the too long and the too short book from splitting it up, tighter editing, to places that take lesser page count material such as magazines or leaflets.

Odds and Ends, dusted and done.

This week I’m highlighting an urban fantasy. If you’re a fan of Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden Series, you’ll like Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch. It can also be found in the United Kingdom under the title of the Rivers of London.

The story: Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. Unfortunately, his superior plans to stick him in a desk job as a clerk.

However, on duty at a particularly puzzling murder, one of the eye witnesses that speaks to him turns out to be a ghost. This odd occurrence comes to the attention of Inspector Thomas Nightingale, Special Division of the Uncanny. Nightingale investigates crimes involving magic and the supernatural…on the down low. Due to Peter’s unique ability to sense the supernatural, Thomas takes him on as his assistant. As they investigate the murder, they wade deeper and deeper into a series of bizarre crimes that soon involve gods and goddesses fighting over river territories. A long dead evil begins to emerge in a rising tide of magic and mayhem, and it is up to Nightingale and his new partner to stop it.

I enjoyed the story, full of twists and turns. Peter stumbles into a whole nether world unknown to most Londone

rs who become victims of a malevolent being. Fun dialog, interesting characters, and magic. What more could you want?

 

It’s hot. I’m going to find some mint from my back deck for my iced tea and another good book to read in the shade.

Shine on.

 

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Filed under Cutting Edge Science ideas, ebook science fiction, fantasy series, hard science, magic, Urban Fantasy, Wizards and magic, Writing Tips and Lectures

The Excitement of Self Publishing

Someone once said that the only constant is change itself. Who says? I’m not sure, but it’s true.

Over time my writing group has changed and evolved. We each bring or have brought our own special writing strengths to the table, and everyone has been better for the interaction. Sadly, four of our writers over the years we have been together have gone on because of new jobs, a new husband, new baby or new residence. Others have filled in the vacancies, adding fresh ideas to the writing process.

Our most recent escapee, er, graduate, is D. Wallace Peach. She has shed the constrictions of her publisher to turn to self-publishing. Recognizing the help given by her publisher when she was new and learning, she has embraced self-publishing and revamped her series with exciting new covers, combing through her books, fixing any errors, and generally re-editing everything.

The results are exciting and gives everything a fresh new look.

But then she continued on with a whole new series: The Rose Shield, and Catling’s Bane is the first book.

This is not your usual fantasy or science fiction series but a strange blend of both, which deals with mind control in an exotic world. Oh, here. Let me have her tell you in her own words:

“In the tiers of Ellegeance, the elite Influencers’ Guild holds the power to manipulate emotions. Love and fear, pain and pleasure, healing and death mark the extremes of their sway, but it’s the subtle blends that hook their victims’ hearts. They hide behind oaths of loyalty and rule the world.

A child born in the grim warrens beneath the city, Catling rues the rose birthmark encircling her eye. Yet, it grants her the ability to disrupt the influencers’ sway. Established methods of civil control disintegrate before her. She’s a weapon desired by those who reign and those who rebel.

To the Influencer’s Guild, she’s an aberration, a threat. They order her death and thus the betrayals begin. One woman protects and trains her, plotting to use her shield to further imperial goals. No longer a helpless child, Catling has other plans. As chaos shakes the foundations of order and rule, will she become the realm’s savior? Or its executioner?

The Rose Shield Tetralogy – a blend of science fiction and fantasy.

Welcome to a world of three moons, a sentient landscape, rivers of light, and tier cities that rise from the swamps like otherworld flowers. A planet of waterdragons, where humans are the aliens living among three-fingered natives with spotted skin. Where a half-blood converses with the fog and the goddess plans her final reckoning.

Follow Catling’s journey as she grows from childhood into the deadly force that shapes the future. She is the realm’s shield, an influencer, assassin, healer, mother, and avenger. And all she wants is to go home.

The books of The Rose Shield Tetralogy:
Catling’s Bane
Oathbreakers’ Guild
Farlanders’ Law
Kari’s Reckoning”

The whole series has been released at once so there’s no waiting around one book at a time. (As George R.R. Martin has us doing)

Recently she talked about how important the first chapter was and had a lot of good points for writers at any level. Check out her blog at:

https://mythsofthemirror.com/2017/03/07/28237/

Yes, change is the constant. We are all changing, growing, reaching out for new experiences and hopefully becoming better for it. I wish Diana the best of luck and lots of sales in her new adventure.

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Filed under alien life forms, Alien worlds, fantasy series, Indie authors, Indie Publishing, Science fiction world building, Self-publishing, Writing Tips and Lectures

A Whiff of Science Fiction in a Good Thriller

Image 1With the rain coming in and A World Too Far published, it’s back to writing…no excuses.
I know the general overall scope of this next story, just not all the details—and the devil is in the details.

That’s when Larry Brooks’s story structure comes in handy. (The Storyfix) He uses a four point system. The first twenty pages is the initiating event with a hook. Something happens that shows the character’s life is about to change. The first 25% is the set up and the first plot point. We learn about the character and his world. The primary obstacle is defined.larry-brooks

The hero confronts the obstacle, but then there’s the pinch point at 37% of the way through where we are reminded of the nature and intention of the antagonistic force.

At the mid plot point we are 50% through and everything changes. New information shows up. The hero has to dig deeper and find new solutions to reach his goal.

At 62% into the story, the confrontation escalates. Obstacles change and evolve. The hero finds a new course, and new opportunities set up the final showdown. Protagonist takes command. We think the solution is in hand …but not so fast. Greater feats are required.

At 80% a plot point carries the final battle. The character has evolved, changed through the experience and a major confrontation occurs to prove his or her worth.

The resolution brings the final pages of the story where ends are tied up, actions are explained, and a sense of completion ends the story.

I use this outline to try to keep on track so my heroine is not off wandering in the weeds with readers asking : what’s she doing? What’s the point? There has to be a rub…conflict worthy of a story. And, for me, there can be multiple conflicts and lines of progression. Sometimes the conflict is outward, but sometimes, the conflict is internal. Sometimes both at the same time.

Brooks has a blog called the Story you might want to check out. He goes more in-depth  with the process.    storyfix.com/about

Okay, now (sips coffee, rubs face) time to write.

legaciesThis week I read a book recommended by a new reader. What I like is that it’s a hidden gem not on any current list. It was published a while ago, but it’s new to me. That’s the beauty of this new publishing world. The reader comes fresh to the story if he’s never read it before no matter what the publication date. Ebooks are forever.

The other caveat is that it barely ekes into the science fiction genre. There is a science fiction element hiding in the story, so I decided to go ahead and mention it. It’s there so keep reading.

The book is Legacies by F. Paul Wilson. This is in the popular Repairman Jack series. Repairman Jack isn’t your average repairman, although his own father is oblivious to what he really does and wants him to move to Florida, buy a fleet of trucks, and with Florida’s great opportunities, expand his business there.

What Repairman Jack fixes is lives. He rights injustice. He defends the underdog. He lives off the grid, not daring to marry for fear of creating a data trail. In certain circumstances, he is willing to murder if necessary. He has no social security card, does not deal with banks or leave an identity trail of any kind. Often, his opponents were powerful men who did bad deeds. Consequently, over the years he has antagonized dangerous people. But he chooses his jobs carefully. There is a bit of MacGyver in him.

Dr. Alicia Clayton works with children who have aids. These are abandoned children of mothers usually on crack, heroine, or other drugs and have passed aids onto their child. Alicia runs a center to help these desperately ill children.hosts

She inherits her inventor father’s house after his death in a mysterious plane crash. Both house and Alicia carry deep secrets. Her half brother is willing to do anything to get the house out of her hands, but if she is killed, the house passes to the Greenpeace organization.

So, those desperate to uncover the house’s secrets stop at killing her. Shadowy Arabs, a lurking Japanese ninja, and various nefarious characters enter the picture. Alicia wants the house burned, but competing shadowy international figures want the house at any cost. They offer millions, but for some reason Alicia will not sell. Everyone who helps her, from lawyer to private eye, ends up murdered. She is becoming emotionally unhinged trying to deal with what is happening to those who try to help. Someone of daring and cunning who is willing to risk his life to uncover the mystery is needed.

the-tombAnd so enters Repairman Jack under his many aliases to right the wrong and uncover the mystery.

Clever with many plot twists, this page-turner thriller will pull you in until the last surprising moment.

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Filed under Hard science fiction, science fiction, Science Fiction Detective Story, science fiction series, Science fiction thriller, Writing Tips and Lectures

Zany Alternate Reality Science Fiction

Image 1Is it me, or are characters are not behaving properly nowadays?

By this I don’t mean loose morals, heavy sex, betrayal and murder. That’s been going on for centuries. I mean jumping out of books or TV shows within a book—not staying put in their storyline .

In 1969 John Fowler wrote The French Lieutenant’s Woman and offered up three different endings—reader’s choice. I hated that. For me, what had been a rich believable story got flattened into fiction when the ending became optional.Redshirts

Now John Scalzi’s wins the Hugo for…spoiler alert…Redshirts, a story in which the protagonists discover they are merely characters in a TV show whose lives are manipulated by the writer. A parody on Star Trek, anyone found wearing a redshirt on an away mission should count himself in grave peril.

So the main characters hie off to Hollywood to take back control of their scenes, er, lives. For me, the book got a little silly.

Now this week I read the Eyre Affair and ran into a similar theme—but this time it had a lot of silly in it.

Jane Eyre Affair

Thursday Next is a member of Special Operatives in literary detection known as SpecOps. She’s like FBI for literature. The story takes place in a surreal future in Great Britain where time travel is routine and cloning commonplace, although the big cloning feature are pet Dodoes. Of course, Thursday has one. Naming the main character Thursday Next should have been the first big giveaway.

In the story, literature is taken extremely seriously, and forging Byronic verse is considered a felony. A continuing argument is who really authored the Shakespearean plays, and audiences participate in certain well-known theater productions, such as Hamlet. Thursday’s aunt Polly actually gets lost in Wadsworth I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, and the big bad corporate villain searching for the ultimate weapon is named Jack Schitt, no shit.

 Thursday Next is called in when the original manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewitt is stolen and a character is rewritten throughout every subsequent copy. Archeron Hades is the main villain out to extort money and mayhem by threatening to change famous literature. Thursday confronts him during a robbery, but he gets away.

As you might guess, Jane Eyre becomes a target, and Thursday Next finds herself trapped in the story, trying to track down Hades and his accomplice, Felix. Felix gets killed a lot, but keeps wearing the same old face on new bodies. Meanwhile, there is a side romance that rather parallels pieces of Jane Eyre involving Thursday and her ex-boyfriend.

Okay, so you have a taste of the zany story where characters, such as Mr. Rochester, step out of the story to help Thursday while the narrative is elsewhere in the original manuscript.

There are readers who love this chaos, so I am mentioning the book for them, but I’m more of a traditionalist and want my characters to remain in their stories. I struggled through this one.

Lost in a Good Book

As a writer, I must admit that my characters often take unexpected turns and sometimes grow bigger than called for in my original plot. There is an organic quality to my writing, although I outline ahead of time and know what my ending is going to look like. But everyone stays in the story. No one walks through my office door and demands a rewrite.

Do you control your characters or do they run lose throughout your story?

If you need help, and who doesn’t, Jay Lee, runs the Choosy Bookworm and has forty websites that he recommends. Several I have already mentioned in previous blogs, but they are worth mentioning again.

If you’re new to the game, hbpublications has a comprehensive blog on book launching marketing methods that might offer some helpful ideas.

https://choosybookworm.com/resources-for-writing-marketing-books/

http://hbspublications.blogspot.ca/2014/03/your-book-launch-marketing-methods-and.html?m=1&utm_content=bufferbcd0b&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

My new banner is of the deepest image ever in the universe. The Hubble Telescope took a totally dark spot in space and pointed its telescope there for an extended period of time. Thousands of galaxies we had never noticed appeared.

Makes you think.

Enjoy your spring.

daffodils-737979-1




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Filed under Alternate Reality in Literature, Amazon publishing, Best selling author, Book within a Book Science Fiction, ebook science fiction, Hugo winners, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, science fiction, Science Fiction Detective Story, Self-publishing, Writing Tips and Lectures

Writing Science Fiction and a Military Scifi Review

photoIf you are an author or writer, I have three interesting links for you to check out. The first is a lecture series on Utube given by Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn, Way of Kings, etc.) for classes at BYU. Seventy-two fascinating lectures cover all aspects of writing: characters, setting, plot and the business end of getting published the traditional way: networking, queries, agents, etc.

You might want to grab a bag of gummie bears before you start. A great lecture series from one of our current best, free on Utube.

The second is a link to the short story market. Where to put a short story if that’s what you write.

Http://wwww.duotrope.com.

The third is a survey by Freebooksy, an advertising site for free and discounted books. (So they are biased) The author signs up and when his book is offered free on KDP Select, Freebooksy features it for the date requested. Readers sign up and get e-mails of these free and discounted books at no cost for the service. Sometimes, the sites that do this charge quite a hefty fee to the author for a promo and are picky about what books they list. Still, the numbers in the survey are interesting.

http://freebooksy.com/author-blog/2012/9/18/freebooksy-report-the-state-of-kdp-select-free-promotions.html

Poor Man's Fight  by Kay Elliot

This week I read Poor Man’s Fight by Elliot Kay. This is the first in a series recommend by my ex-military reader and I quite enjoyed it. Bonus is that it is a well-written Indie published series; a gem glittering in a pile of self published novels. To see a self-published author take care with his story and presentation makes me proud.

Having said that, the plot isn’t dramatically new or the characters unique.

And that isn’t a bad thing.

Tanner Malone’s stellar school performance comes to a unexpected end when family problems and a rigged test cause him to flub his final exam for college placement. His poor performance requires him to go deeply in debt if he is to continue on to college.

Rather than go into debt, he enlists in the military that is ramping up its forces to combat the increasing threat of space pirates.

A large portion of the book deals with his trials and tribulations at boot camp. Then, the story picks up the viewpoint of the pirate horde and their grievances against the current government practices. The author flashes back and forth between the two.

Kay balances his characters nicely. You have both good and bad in both camps. In addition, he does a nice job of portraying Tanner Malone as a highly intelligent nerd caught in the grinder of the military boot camp where physical prowess and guts counts for more than independent thinking and intelligence.

Even in the pirate’s camp, brute viciousness is balanced with a likable leader and his capable, but deadly, female boatswain.

As you enter both worlds, you feel the inevitability of them meeting with violence and a lot of fighting.

If you like military scifi…future worlds with spaceships and battles, I suggest you gear up and try this one. Rich Man's War

Reviews on the sequel, Rich Man’s War,  are even higher.

 

 

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Filed under Book reviews, ebook marketing, ebook science fiction, Indie Science Fiction Authors, Marketing and selling novels, military science fiction, science fiction, Science Fiction book review, science fiction series, Self-publishing, Writing Tips and Lectures