Write-a-thon Progress

Many, many thanks to those who have already donated to the Clarion West Write-a-thon.  I have been writing furiously to hold up my end of the deal. Weekdays are never good–the pesky day-job intrudes–but I hope to make much progress this weekend.  And check out the other writers that are taking part! A wild and wonderful group, some of whom are former students so you see, it works!

Support the next generation of storytellers

I’ve been involved for several years supporting Clarion West, a speculative fiction writer’s workshop based in Seattle.  For six weeks, instructors and students take part in an intensive writing bootcamp focused on improving their craft. Not many people can afford seven weeks away from work and home, not to mention the tuition costs, so those of us who are supporters fundraise to help it all work.  I am committing to finishing my work in progress, The Scent of Metal, during the course of the Clarion West Write-a-thon, which starts today.  My goal is a measly hundred bucks.  If I raise that much I will put two (2!) chapters of that book up on this site for all to read.  Is that a deal or what?

How do you donate? Go to my Write-a-thon page here, or go to the general Write-a-thon page here.  Each writer’s page has a PayPal button for donations, which goes straight to Clarion West.  Every dollar helps.

Thanks!

Jean Craighead George, RIP

The author of Julie of the Wolves  and more than a hundred other books has passed away at the age of 92. A fighter to the end, Ms. George was party to a lawsuit to enforce her right to license ebooks of her own works, a right the paper publishers claim was theirs even though ebooks did not exist at the time the original contract was signed.

I loved Julie of the Wolves, and the thought that her last year on Earth was burdened with a lawsuit…well, Anubis pursues the evildoer, in this world and the next.

 

He stole my title!

…buy his book anyway!  Chuck Wendig, the profane, logorrheatic fabulist that walks like a man, has perpetrated yet another literary outrage on the unsuspecting world.  (I keed, I keed!)  He’s funny (if just a tad PG-13) and talks a lot about being a penmonkey and how to do it better.  I suppose I should support a fellow writer, even if he DID steal the title of the second book in my SF series for his own nefarious purposes, forcing me to come up with YET ANOTHER title, which task nearly sprained my brain.

Oh yeah, the book is for sale.  Amazon. B&N. Indiebound.

And now… payback.  Pay attention, bdub.  Your homework is to successfully distinguish slot-head from Phillips screws 2 out of 3 times.

Update: fixed stupid HTML error.

Weird and Wonderful World

There’s an old writer’s joke–whenever we’re asked by eager newbies “Where do you get your ideas?” we reply with an involved shaggy dog tale involving a subscription idea service run by a little old lady in Schenectady.  The next best thing (and it really exists!) is Atlas Obscura, “a compendium of the world’s wonders, curiosities, and esoterica”.   Want to know where the largest collection of books bound in human skin is located?  Who the “Crystal Maiden” is?  It’s all there, and you can easily get lost going from one weird and wonderful thing to another.  I defy you to not get a story idea going through that site …

Riding the Human Wave

Readers and Writers, Unite!  You have nothing to lose but a lot of really boring books filled with futility and self-loathing!

We’ve started a movement.  A literary movement, even.  Human Wave SF.  We’re still deciding the rules, whether we’ll have rules, logo, etc. but we’ve got a website so you know we’re legit.  The splendid and worthwhile Sarah Hoyt asked the question “Where’s the sense of wonder in science fiction anymore?”.  Lots of people discovered they had the same question, and wondered what we could do about it.  So, we are bringing Sensawunda back!  The plan is to have a hand-wavy kind of general agreement about what we are promoting, then we’ll collect up writers who want to be identified with our particular brand of insanity, list them on the blog, collect already published books to point to as examples for the curious, and stuff like that.

 

Sabrina’s Version of the Human Wave Credo:

In my books–

1.  Somebody wins.   So far it’s always the heroes, after much struggle and sacrifice, because that’s what I like to read.  But somebody has to win, and something has to happen after 300+ pages.

II. Having Fun is a complete and sufficient defense.

3.14 Pie is a good thing.  The Dark Side says it has cookies, but we have pie.

D. Remember you are competing for beer money.

5.a A character’s race, species, age, gender, gender identification, sexual orientation, presence/lack of sexual activity, political donation history, hobbies, physical pathology, national origin (except Belgians), ranking in the Meyers-Briggs scale, handedness, musical preference, or tendency to carry a grudge for all eternity is NOT DETERMINATIVE of virtue or guilt. For the Avoidance of Doubt, that means:

  • Humans are not inherently evil.  Nonhumans are not inherently perfect.
  • Heroes can be male and white, villains can be female and black, and the whole ensemble can be straight.  IT’S ALLOWED.  The logical inverse is also permitted.
  • Using the above or similar characteristics as shortcuts to avoid writing well-developed, complex characters is cheating and will result in points subtracted from your final score.

iii. The Reader does not wish to be beaten over the head with your Moral Message for Mankind. (see rule D).  Yeah, yeah, you have something to say but you don’t need to hire a lecture hall.  Negative example–Ayn Rand.  Positive example–Terry Pratchett.  He’s got lots of message and meaning but he lets the characters play it out for you.

404.  If Technology is Evil, Why are you Wearing Clothes? (Corollary: If Corporations are Evil, why do you have an iPhone?)  It is our happy hominid nature to poke things with sticks and figure out how they work.  Then we figure out how those things can be useful to us.  This is why we are not currently lion kibble on the Serengeti.  Personally, I prefer this scenario.

g. Nature is Stupid.  It’s just very big and there’s a lot of it so it can kill you quite easily, but it doesn’t, per se, care.  Or think.  Respect it like a huge brain-damaged poisonous  snake, but don’t worship it or ask it for investment advice.

401(k) Your Book Will Live On.  Try not to have a worldview determined by today’s headlines.  Thirty years from now, will your readers know or care about ${PoliticalScandalDuJour}?  At the time people cared a great deal about the election of Millard Fillmore.  Now, not so much.  For extra credit, look up the profound repercussions of the Pig War.  (Yes, actual declared war between the US and Britain that nobody remembers.  No joke.)

3a4d. Puzzles are fun, Science is cool.  Let your characters figure out the world around them and discover new things.  Let your readers figure it out a little bit ahead of the characters.  This releases serotonin and promotes relaxation in both body and wallet.

 

Exemplars, past and present:  (writers who get it)

H. Beam Piper

Edgar Rice Burroughs

E.E. “Doc” Smith

James Schmitz

Terry Pratchett

James P. Hogan

Steve Miller and Sharon Lee

Anne McCaffrey

Eleanor Cameron (oh come on.  The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet??? Classic!)

Larry Correia

…more to come…

Battles and Warefare for Writers

A good lie (story) always has a basis in fact.  Why invent everything when someone else has done the work for you?  You can pick and choose what you need to steal based on the needs of your particular work.

For Fantasy

Most of the stuff you will want here is located in pre-mechanized historical warfare.  The internal combustion engine changed the art of war in fundamental ways, even when horses were still being used (as late as WWII, believe it or not).  Here are some excellent sources…

Hans Delbruck – In addition to being an amazing military historian, Delbruck was also an officer in the Prussian cavalry (when that still meant horses and not tanks).  If he looks at a hill and states cavalry could not get up it under fire, believe him.  There’s a collection of his history books that have been translated to English that are amazing resources.  Warfare in Antiquity (scanned, not all chapters) is also available in print for pretty reasonable prices if you look around.

Charles Oman – Another amazing historian, who analyzed many less-famous battles (thus suitable for serial-number-removal and repurposing as your fantasy battle!)  His magnum opus is available as a free ebook.

For Science Fiction

We don’t have a lot to work with here, unfortunately.  Submarine warfare gives some of the working restrictions, but a space battle will have MUCH better detection capabilities (even by Mark I Eyeball).  The next best option are long-range naval battles of WWII vintage.  Also note drone warfare as practiced in the most recent Iraq war and ongoing operations in Afghanistan.  As the recent intercept of a drone by Iran showed, anything that flies by radio control can be taken over by radio control, so perhaps the day of the dashing fighter pilot isn’t over yet.  Bear in mind that while energy weapons are cool, they also (duh) take a lot of energy that the ship in question might not have in sufficient quantities.  The current US Navy electric rail gun prototype still uses a solid projectile, and a metric buttload of electricity to launch.

Firehearted now available at Barnes & Noble

Now that the Kindle Select experiment is concluded, Firehearted is now available for those who prefer the epub format.  I still think Select worked very well for me — Firehearted is selling nearly twice the volume as The Last Mage Guardian.  There’s been some sell-through from one to the other but they are different kinds of fantasy, and it shows.

The SF trilogy is being edited even now.  I will keep you posted on its progress–I’m quite excited to get it published!

Exotic names, done cheap

How do you name characters that are outside your cultural milieu?  Let’s say you have a character, a Greek woman.  What will you name her?  Leaving out the usual deities, that is.

-Try a phone directory!  Lots of names, unfortunately they are all in Greek.  You could, if desperate, transliterate them to the Roman alphabet.

-International clubs that have membership lists.  These could be clubs you belong to, or clubs that have membership lists open to the general public.  For example, the International Association of Cytology.  They have Greek members, and the list is in Roman letters!  I usually use the American Physical Society, of which I used to be a member, which sent out its entire membership listing as a searchable database on CD.  You do have to weed out the expat members working in foreign countries, but you can usually find at least a few of each country to give you ideas.

-Find a cultural club or organization connected to the area in question.  Alas, searching on “Greek Societies” gets you a lot of fraternity houses.

Be aware that there could be cultural implications to naming that aren’t obvious to outsiders.  For example, a Sunni Muslim would not have the name Ali, but a Shia could.  It has a religious affiliation connotation impossible for Muslims to ignore.

Science Ideas

Writing science fiction is fun.  I know, I do it myself.  Having a degree in physics isn’t always a help, though, since the kind of stuff I wrote up in my thesis would take waaaay too much explication to put in a story.  It would be the mother of all expository lumps, and that would just be to explain why the photoelectric effect is wavelength-dependent.  (Just trust me on this, OK?)

So, you want to write sciency-type stuff in your story and you don’t have a science degree.  As I just showed, that can be an advantage–but you still have to find ideas somewhere.

Please, for the love of Ghu, don’t get your new cool science ideas from any publication that has classified ads or a byline involving the AP, Reuters, or BBC.  Bless their hearts, they try (sometimes) but they usually get it wrong or the editor hamfists the story to make it “fit”.  You need to go where the science geeks go to catch up on news, like PhysOrg.  Not only are these stories that usually haven’t hit the newswires yet (meaning you aren’t following an old trend) but the articles usually have links for more information *and* are written for non-specialists.  I would also avoid any site that mentions “chemtrails” if not IMMEDIATELY followed by the online equivalent of pointing and laughing. Continue reading