Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Developing Creatures

You've just arrived to a new planet. Exiting your space vehicle...what do you see?

Don't be boring and lay out the drony E.T. or triangular-beady-eyed-abducting alien. No, no, no. Let's do an exercise to see what we can come up with.

Close your eyes...don't peek...I said don't peek!

Now, what do you see? Is it a tropical like world, desert world, water world, wetlands, or frozen tundra? Write it down.

Okay now that you have the land, decide if it's populated (alien, human, or diverse mix) and how "civilized" it is. Write it down.

'Kay, time to research the types of animals you'd find in that kind of habitat. Once you find them, list the individual features on either small pieces of paper or index cards. Take the stack and toss it on the table, shuffle them around. Pick up three to five.

That is your species.

It's a creative, unique, and spontaneous way to build creatures...and I'd doubt any other writer would end up with the same type of animal.

Good writing all!

Monday, June 28, 2010

98.6 Factor

As a child and well into my teens, my love for sci-fi was dominated by the need to know where technology and science advancement was going. For the more humanistic elements I turned to mystery, romance, and thrillers.

It's no mystery that sci-fi has always been driven by the hard facts. So much so, that for several years, in my more emotional phase of life (turning in to a mother, marrying, starting my adult life)...I turned away from sci-fi and my reading leaned towards other genres.

Coming back to sci-fi several years ago, I immediately recognized the evolution of its framework. What had been infused to a deeper extent was the 98.6 Factor.

What's the 98.6 Factor? Well, we use the term a lot in healthcare. Even some automotive marketing use it now. It's the human element. The person behind the technology and science.

Sci-fi has matured with the onset of this new Speculative Era. The relationship between the two have melded into a beautiful balance. As we all know science and technology is at the core, an extension of ourselves. The achievement and gratification we can receive from it. By infusing the emotional, spiritual, and philosophical aspects back into the story, we've re-emerged the human experience back into the future.

No longer will robots be able to take over, because we recognize our place in the future. More importantly, we recognize our need for the 98.6 Factor in the future...something robots can never achieve.

Think about your story and ensure that its not starving of human experience. Don't let the science drive the human...let the human drive the science.

So...that's my philosophical posting for today.

Good writing all!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

City Building

Need some world building inspiration? Feel like what your building is a little stale and small scales...not innovated enough?

I was working on my story tonight and found myself a little drained with a new space city my characters are heading too. So I clicked on one of the favorite sites, Popular Magazine and found a great article, Environmental Visionaries: The Urban Remodeler.

This engineer and engineers like him might be of help to you. These people build cities of the future based on their vision of where today's technology will be in 100-150 years. This kind of research can be a great launching point for the city ports of your story's future.

Take a look at the article's sample vision proposal...I know, totally awesome!
If you want to see more about this kind of visionary engineering, check out the Terraform1 site.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Kickin' Back into Gear

Okay. I'm back from my work conference...3 days, all day, of healthcare stuff. Now I'm back home and it's time to visit space a little bit. Helping this is the fact that it's Friday, which means A.R. can play - er - write all night if she so wishes too...which I do of course, Sillyhead!

Any-who. I'm thinking minimum 2500 words. M.I.N.I.M.U.M. I'll focus most on the Space Epic, but will move to my fantasy if Mrs. Muse turns into Mrs. Cranky Muse.

That's all folks.

Good writing all!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Book Review: Rebels and Lovers

Rebels and Lovers by Linnea Sinclair is a fantastic sci-fi romance. I liked the nerdy male main character, Devin. At his basic he's a glasses wearing, data crunching, business guy who gets himself caught up in something he can't handle.

In comes Kaidee, a girl from the "interstellar" block so to speak. She's from a rough side of space, with a questionable father in an even more questionable business. The story interweaves through one action-packed adventure to the next. Through it all Kaidee keeps saving Devin and his nephew from trouble.

There was a bit of back story that at times had me questioning whether this was a trilogy or series. I kept checking the front information...as if it would change or something. It wasn't until I went to Linnea Sinclair's website that I saw it was, in fact, one of the Dock Five Universe series.

The detailed world Sinclair's built is a magnificent, realistic world based on sound social and technological assumptions. If there were one complaint - and it's a small one - they spent a bit too much time fighting at the space port and not enough time in space travel...but I'm not going to complain. I mean, I have to concede that the series is titled Dock Five, which is the port they were hangin' at.

If you want to read a great example of a sound sci-fi romance, pick up Linnea Sinclair's Rebels and Lovers. Now I just have to go get the first 3 in the series...and then wait anxiously for the next.
Good writing (and reading) all!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Leading Couples

On my current sci-fi WIP I'm working with a couple different romantic dynamics. One of them is a couple. In chatting with a writer friend, she was surprised 2 of my MCs were already in a relationship.

"It won't sell," she commented.

"Why?" It seemed a very odd statement to me.

"Good stories are about characters who meet, fall in love, and have that new relationship conflict."

What? "That's silly."

It is silly, but in my research last night, I found that there is a stereotype couple characters are boring in books. The biggest argument seems to be they lack in passion and intrigue.

Well...I'm deciding to balk at this stereotype. What made the reading masses think a relationship can't continue to be passionate and intriguing? No wonder the divorce rate is what it is!

There's nothing more passionate than a lover who knows your body. It's actually more passionate because EVERY sensual scene is going to be a "hit", but with the added bonus of a depth and connection new passion can't match.

And what's more intriguing then riding that relationship through the bumps and adventures of life and learning new aspects of their character?

Lastly, conflict - in my opinion - is more in a relationship because the characters have something they don't want to lose. Through the progression of the story there's internal and external conflict threatening to tear them apart, destroy them, or break their spirits.
Okay, my little rant is over. If you have a chance to build a great story with a couple, try it. I think you'll find it very rewarding.
Good writing all!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Science Update

Hello! I have some pretty cool topics to cover today. I took a few weeks to connect my blog to my "geeks sites" a little better, which you'll find in my revamped Sci-Fi Haunts section.

All right...rev your geeky engines 'cause, "WE'RE OFF!!"

Japan rolls out first solar sail in space! Holy moly! This is what I'm talking about. Ideally there'll be more than one mode of transportation...but wouldn't this one be the most magnificent?

I could see waking up in my space port apartment and opening my dark blinds (no more sun rise people) to a flotilla of beautiful metal yachts working their way across the spaceways to the connecting business sphere, or full of tourists from the nearby Mars mining colony.

*sighs* Okay, on to the next cool space thing.

The Search for other "Earths" is going pretty well...we think - Okay, okay. I know I didn't end up being a scientist, but still. Can't they just let us peek at the good stuff? Just a little peek?

Pout over.

It is pretty cool that they've found 400 interesting possibilities. False-positives or not...they're really mapping out some cool future settings for character exploration in my novels. Now...I just have to wait 8 months before I get the details to put IN to my stories.


All right people. That's it for now.

Good writing all!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Query Letters

I figured since I did submissions in the last post, I'd better follow up pretty quick with the querying process. It can be kinda confusing.

The query letter can be (is) the most daunting task of getting your novel published. I'm still learning how to perfect a query letter...and I only have 1 darn completed book. (I'm already stressing the query for my next sci-fi epic novel.)

Querying is a one page letter about your book you write to agents seeking representation of your novel. Some publishers also request querying first. The basic framework of a query letter:

Paragraph 1: The Intro/Hook (Keep this paragraph only 1 or 2 sentences...I know, I know, but it's important.)

Paragraph 2: Summary of story (It's good to keep this 1 paragraph, but I've seen 2 paragraph successfully done.)

Paragraph 3: Biography (Only those things that tie to the story or you as an author. Not about your life as a kitty wrangler if the story is not about kitty wrangling.)

Closing: Say thank you for time and consideration. ENTER. ENTER. Sincerely, Your name. (Keep it professional people; no begging or bribery here.)

Most importantly, make sure you put the name of your book, word count, and genre in the query letter. This can be either in the first paragraph or last. Tip for you, not in the middle. It'll get lost.

Sounds pretty simple, right? But trust me and thousands of other querying writers, it's very hard. No cliche sentences. Interesting without being corner. Professional without boredom. Courteous without brown nosing or "bowing down to them"...and the list of "eeks" goes on.

There are some great resources to help you get started putting a query letter AND see examples of not-so-good ones:

Agent Query's "How to Write a Query"
Query Shark
Guide to Literary Agents "Successful Queries" series

Good writing all!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Submissions, submissions, submissions.

They can cause a writer to sweat, become addicted to the refresh button, and prevent them from leaving their PC station. The process of submitting can be very emotional, as I've talked about on my site before. Today, I want to look at submissions in the objective term.

What is submission, how do you decide where to submit, and how do you know you're ready to submit.

Basically, a submission in writer's term is the process of sending an editor your story. It is made up of a cover letter and the story either in the body of the email or as an attachment. This is very different then the querying process (what you mail to an agent and some publishers)...which I'll cover some other time.

The cover letter is a quick, professional email stating the story you want to submit and who you are. My most successful cover letters followed Strange Horizon's format. Again, this is very different than a query letter that you'd send to an agent and some publishers.

Where to Submit:
Well, that literally depends on the kind of story you have. Know your genre, word count, and theme and then try some of these sites from Science Fiction Writers of America's (SFWA) list.

My personal favorite is Duotrope. They have a great system for seeking out and tracking submissions. Another site, Ralan.com, is great too, but for me personally I use it more for the other market-specific information and links it contains.

How do you know when you're ready:
Canned response to this is, "Well, that's up to you really. Have you thoroughly edited it (just spell checking doesn't work)? Have you checked your story mechanics for clarity, consistency, and logic? And most importantly, have you let it sit a while before re-doing the previous tips? Sometimes a break will allow you to further clean up and prepare your manuscript."

The real response to this..."Have you built up enough courage to hit send?" That's the only way you know you're ready. Even then, you will have the normal symptoms of a new story submitter, see my previous post titled Submission Process From the Writer's Viewpoint.

Good writing all! (And build up that courage to submit...you'll have to face it sometime or another if you want to be published.)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Inspired to Inspire Inspiration

Heehee...I love a good wonky title. This title is truly the truth of my post today. I want to take a hot poker - er - funny bunny and help inspire you to inspire your creativity...you're inspiration.

'Kay...enough of the run around. On to the "serious business" of posting. *Sets aside water gun and clown nose.*

Generalization heading your way...Writer inspiration is, well, everywhere. Writers see ideas in everything. The angry man honking his horn at the stressed out soccer mom in front of him. The seemingly sedated check out girl and the bagger who can't seem to stop doing some weird jig.

The worst moment - another assumption here...and we know what happens with assumptions - is when the creativity well runs dry and the world seems an uninspiring dry cardboard society.

What we've done is drained our natural source of creativity, but training yourself as writers can be a lot like training yourself as any other artist of medium - we just sometimes snub our nose at these exercises.

*Pulls nose out of air*...let's get artistic people.

Okay, starting point: Cardboard land.

Pull out a blank piece of paper or blank word document. Now....write. Anything. DON'T THINK (I saw you). Just write. Whatever comes out, even if it's just a grocery list.

Alright - yes, I used it...catch me if you can - now take one element of your writing. Using the grocery list example, pick off an item or two if you're feeling crazy. I'll just choose bread and butter.

Now exand on that item(s) using at least two of your five senses. In case you forgot, here's a quick overview of the senses: Smell, sight, sound, taste, touch.

Remember, it doesn't have to have any point other than your brain popped it out. It doesn't have to be good, just words strung together.

Got it? Good. Now look around (either in real life or through a website or magazine) and pick out a person. Male, female...heck, even an animal. Visualize that person. Their tastes, personalities, characteristics, mannerisms.

Now write what that person would do with the item(s) you just wrote about using the five senses.

End point: a constructed quest for creativity.

Here's my example:

Item: Bread and butter
Person: Corporate woman sitting on park bench

Lucy used the back of her hand to dab the sweat off her neck. The navy suit was a bad choice for a July interview. Pulling out the bread, she spread herb butter and took a small bite. Crap, she thought, realizing she'd forgotton water. Crumbs stuck to the roof of her mouth. She swallowed hard, forcing the dry piece down her throat. Perfect, just perfect.
Exercises like this won't totally get you out of your block, but it'll start refilling the well. Go ahead, try it. And if you have any other good exercises, feel free to share them.

Good writing all!

Friday, June 11, 2010

I'm on F.I.R.E.

Oh yeah. I'm on writing fire. Last few days saw almost 1200 words added to my Sci-fi epic novel (still unnamed---grrrrr).

It's the first novel I'm using several POV's. 5 to be exact. Not as daunting as it first looks and the characters are all tied together pretty tight. There are times though, I have to refocus my muse because she's seeing a scene in multiple POVs at the same time.

"Slow down, Little Muse Grasshopper...Breath," I keep telling her. It's working so far, but I know this one will need extra love and tender care in the editing phase.

...oh who am I kiddin'?

Editing is about carnage and blood and guts spewing everywhere. Must remember my scrubs and face mask when that time comes.

Good writing all!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Celebration of a Writing Friend

When I joined my favorite online writing group, Critique Circle, and uploaded my novel I got some great feedback. Some of the best came from Brad a.k.a "Whiplash". We started swapping critiques of each others novels, chapter by chapter.

Trust me, it was not a hardship. Brad's story, Becoming NADIA, is fantastic. The characters are three dimensional, the plot has depth, and the subplots weave through and keep you compelled.

So, it is with a lot of excitement I tell all my blogger buddies Brad's story has been accepted by a publisher.


It is so great to see the success of a new writer and to be at the ground floor when it happened. Brad is now working and polishing the sequal to Becoming NADIA, and I know it will be just as riveting.

Good luck Brad, this is just the beginning for your writing career. For all my blogger friends, I'll keep you posted on the publication date (which is estimated for April 2010)...and of course do a book review when it's out.

Good writing all! (And remember, acceptance can and does happen.)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Quickie: Writer's Moment

Jetta McCree opened her eyes to blackness streaked by white lights. Panic set in on the first cold-seared breath fogging the surface in front of her. She fought to control it. Tentatively touching the clear glass, she cringed at the burning cold and slid her hands to eye level. The black silhouette of them contrasted with the whir of stars in the background. Stars didn't streak. A comet yes; stars, no.

Nausea churned in her stomach with realization. The dark void of space closed in on her. I thought they were going to shoot me or something!

Instead, Jetta hurdled through space in a load capsule. Something told her Frank Donley's men hadn't bothered to press the retrieval button for any nearby Receiver vessels.

"What do you think? Plaid blue or solid blue for tomorrow?"

Plaid or solid blue?

"AR...plaid or solid?" Hubby asks again, standing by the closet and posing with both shirts.

"Oh...sorry. Solid," I suggest absently. Hubby picks plaid in the distance.

...So, Jetta thought, it was going to be a long painful death. Crap...

Good writing all!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tick, Tock, Goes the Clock

And I've been a busy mouse.

This week so far I added another 1000 words on my Sci-Fi epic. Plus, my Muse being hyped on creativity, I did a quick few hundred words on my fantasy novella.

Have I ever said how much I love my Muse? Except when we're not communicating...then she a pain in the a-...nevermind, you get the idea.

OHHHH, and my Nazi Writer also got some time in these last few days too. I actually submitted three of my completed short stories out to a few magazines and one anthology.

Good writing all!

May Status Check

Well, another month come and gone.

I've really been excelling with my new/revised goals. As a refresher they were to: 1, finish outlining one planned fantasy/alternate reality novella and 2, complete first draft of Sci-fi epic novel. And all in a 6 month time frame.

I did veer off a little when I dreamed a great revision for the beginning of an old story. That took about 3 days out of my timeline, but with 4 more months to go I think I can still meet the goal.

I did finish the outline for my alternate reality novella and start on the Part 1 (I'm estimating about 3 parts broken into unknown # of chapters right now). I'm about 20K short of my completed first draft on Sci-fi epic (still as yet not named – grrr).

Sooooo….being the anal SF chick I am, that means within 4 months (120 days) I need to write on average 167 words on my Sci-fi epic. This is totally manageable.

Well, that's what's what folks.

Good writing all!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Unbelievable Success

I've been subbing Duty and Devotion the last few months without the request for partials and fulls I'd like. It's been a little disappointing, so early last week I was reading through the new queries on Query Shark and came across QueryTest.com in one of the comments.

I knew that my query was not as good as it could be, but I couldn't pinpoint the issue. Hmmm...maybe QueryTest might be helpful. I looked through the site and decided to upload mine and see what happened. The site was very helpful with a good response volume (13 in total).

The summary...my query sucked. And not only did QueryTest help me out with that realization, readers gave the reason why.

I went back to the drawing board and after a major revision and resubmission through the site, I sent out a new batch of agent queries and a couple publisher submissions.


Within the first hour (not kidding you) I got a request for full. This morning I woke up with an email from another letting me know my submission was going from the slush pile to editorial review.

If you're looking to diagnose your query, try out this great new site. Totally worth the ego deflation...at least you'll understand where you're going wrong with it.

Good writing all!

Friday, June 4, 2010

365 Days of Fantastic Fiction Cover

Yay! Pill Hill Press just posted their cover for the anthology, Daily Flash: 365 Days of Fantastic Fiction. I must say it is very awesome and I'm excited to be included. (I know, total duh statement)

Isn't it beautiful, wonderful, creative...okay, okay, no more descriptors. Promise.

Night Visitor , my contributed story, is about Nora, who wakes to a very unwelcome guest. As you've probably guessed - if you haven't read my previous acceptance post - 365 Days of Fantastic Fiction will have 365 flash fiction stories. They ranges from creepy to scary to just plain weird. All the wonderful colors of that Speculative Fiction rainbow.

If you want to look into some of the other authors and stories to be contributed, check out Pill Hill Press' forum here: Call for Submissions. I'll let you all know when it's available at Amazon, which should be around November/December.

Good writing all!