Archive for the ‘Sci-Fi Books’ Category

Line Editing A-Go-Go   Leave a comment

How odd the screen looks when you take a picture of it with an iPhone…

It’s come down to this: either I buck up and face the monumental editing task that awaits me, or give up being a writer.

I’ve been shopping around this novel series a bit when, not surprisingly, I’ve been turned down. Yeah, yeah, rejection is inevitable. I ain’t crying about that. It’s part of it. Busting your cherry in the publishing world. One can’t call themselves a writer if they’ve never been rejected at least a hundred times, right?

But after I’ve been subjected to line editing…well, I’m a bit awed that my grasp of the English language seems tenuous at best.

See, for years I’ve been a copywriter. I’ve created pamphlets with the best of them. Wrote web content. Magazine articles. Radio scripts. Flyers. Really, anything that needed describing for a demographic, I did it. Always kept strict adherence to my grammar. Rarely use an Oxford comma or dangling participle. It was this ability to write, coupled with my vivid imagination, that goaded me into writing. And yeah, the story I came up with’s brilliant.

The way I tell it…let’s say it’s a work in progress.

Everyone needs a good editor to make work shine. Hey, diamonds aren’t anything to brag about when you yank them from the earth. Takes a lot of refinement before someone at the local chain store decides it’s the one for the hon. And sometimes a writer gets too close to his or her work. Can’t see errors. I bet if you pressed your face right up to the Mona Lisa, all you’d see is a glob (or the hand of the armed security guards ready to haul you off). You’ve read your work so many times even your characters are sick of invading their turf.

I asked a seasoned, published writer (in this case, my sister Gwen) if she wouldn’t mind reading my book. Since she has an MFA in creative writing and is a college professor, I figured why not. 2,454 comments later, she provided me with all of the details of what makes my book not exactly the novel it can be. While she agreed the story was compelling, the massive instances of head-hopping, substituting internal dialogue for first person singular, thin descriptions of locations or purpose of plot, amongst other things, she pretty much said I needed to go back to the drawing board, but this time with guidelines.

That’s a lot to absorb. Many writers would find all those comments intimidating or insulting. Not me. If I ever want my book to see the light of day, I’m getting to work.

Right after I come home from New York Comic Con this Saturday. I promise!

 

 

 

The Takeaway   Leave a comment

Jennifer Armentrout

Last weekend I attended the Liberty States Fiction Writers conference. As always, it was a splendid affair, full of other writers and readers eager to meet old friends, make new acquaintances, freshen up skills and even make a few pitches to agents and editors. I managed to do all of the above, and more.

Perhaps what influenced me the most was the above speaker – Jennifer Armentrout. She’s widely known as a Young Adult and New Adult writer, but one glance at her list of books reveals her prolific ability to write just about anything. Ms. Armentrout was the keynote speaker on Saturday, delivering one of the memorable speeches I’ve ever heard.

Jennifer Armentrout delivering the keynote speech at the LSFW Writers Conference

After listening to her, it wasn’t difficult to understand why she writes as much as she does. Sure, she loves her craft. Has a fantastic imagination. Can spin tales out of nothingness and make them live in universes not quite explored by others. But that’s not what hooked me. It’s what she does: take risks.

Anyone in a creative field has to either take risks or quit. It’s not a wimpy business for sissies, no way. Although there’s plenty of self-doubt to paint the Sistine Chapel over and again, one learns quickly that if one keeps that up, one’s going nowhere in the publishing world. Yeah, in drearier moods I count myself among the talentless and weak. And sure, who doesn’t need the occasional pat-on-the-back to be reminded that your prose is worth reading?

Jennifer won’t have it. She’s got books to write. Amazingly, she’s stuck with the same agent for her entire career, but she’s taken some incredible risks. Taken offers from publishers who might not have paid her what another would, but offered her greater freedom for her creativity. Not afraid to tackle a subject she knows little about. Maybe even try self-publishing and see what happens. At any rate, she sits down in front of her computer and composes her works for eight hours every day. Sometimes more. But she has to. It’s part of her, to dream, to create, to write.

Perhaps the most powerful engine driving her is a simple matter of her health. At a routine eye exam, it was discovered  she has retinitis pigmentosa, or RP. It’s the gradual withdrawal of one’s ability to see. It’s a cruel disease. As it progresses, the peripheral vision fades, resulting in ever-increasing tunnel vision, until the curtains close forever. There is no cure. At the present time, her vision is still with her, although her peripheral vision is fading.

No one can predict when or how long her vision will last, but Jennifer isn’t waiting for the lights to dim forever. She’s got stories to tell. She’s not waiting for blindness to set in. She doesn’t feel sorry for herself, nor does she expect anyone else to. So there she is, eight hours a day, writing like there’s no tomorrow, taking risks, and nothing will ever stop her.

It gave me a whole new perspective on not only writing, but life. We are put here on earth to succeed. If we don’t, we’ll fade. Why should I let anything hold me back from trying my very best to endure? Aren’t my words worth the risk?

Why, indeed?

Why I Write Science Fiction   Leave a comment

Tomorrow I’m going to a writers conference. I’m expecting the turnout to be a little low, mainly because of the awful weather we’ve been having.  Unless you’re planning to go skiing, two feet of snow with more expected tends to put people in a sour mood. That doesn’t mean the conference won’t be fantastic; it will. We have two huge NYT bestsellers as keynote speakers, a whole batch of editors and agents from big names will be taking pitches, fantastic workshops to take and panel discussions to watch, among other things. Besides, there’s going to be friends I hardly ever see in attendance too, so that means some serious catch-up time over a few, so we can discuss our works and lives.

I joined this well-respected group several years ago, under the influence of my sister Gwen. It’s called Liberty States Fiction Writers and it’s been around for longer than I care to admit. We’re in the process of making many changes, including the website, to accommodate our growing membership and genres represented. Most of our members are published, some by big names. There’s even New York Times bestselling novelists that are part of the team.

If anything, I’ve invested a lot of myself with LSFW, and in turn, they’ve given me the confidence to forge ahead, even when I’m sure I’m a failure. Even the most confident of writers need a bonk on the head occasionally, or a few words of encouragement at least, to get moving towards that computer and be creative. I never imagined I’d be able to write an entire book, and here I am well into the second.

Many writers I’m around are romance novelists. They’re all great at it. Come up with real tear-jerkers and tales of sorrowful gladness. Stories range from no-holds-barred sentimentality to BSDM. That’s fine. Even LGBT romances are on the upswing – good news.  One of the best LGBT writers I know is a fine, humorous man and an excellent teacher whose lessons I apply to my work.

Me, though, I’ve never been one for sentimentality. You might even call me a cynic. True love didn’t conquer me. It led me down a golden path and kept me hidden, until it gave me the boot. I’ve never had much success with romance, so anything I’d write regarding that subject might sound dismal, hopeless and anything but happy. No Hollywood endings for me, no siree!

Instead, I found solace in situations that simply didn’t exist here on Earth or in our timeline. Sure, the characters might inhabit a strange world, but it’s my world, dammit, and if I want my characters to explore the possibilities of atomic substructures in subspace, so be it. Scientists quibbling over launch trajectories in equatorial locations seemed so much more interesting than, let’s say, getting flowers from a handsome fella. Not knowing what lies within that abandoned research facility on the moon and worse, who – or what – attacked it is definitely more intriguing than what dress the bride’s going to wear. Genetic mutations, nanoscience, coded machinations set to manipulate and govern sure beat the heck out of will she or won’t he.

That’s not to say my characters don’t believe in romance. They do, they engage in it and it doesn’t turn out well for them, either…but they find themselves working on scientific issues and dodging conventions while building worlds using insane technologies and writing sick codes. They don’t have time for flowers and chocolate. They get right down to business, then figure out how to beat the enemy at his/her own game.

They say you write about with what you’re familiar. To me, that’s sci-fi. It’s been my best friend since post-toddlerhood, has never let me down (although I’ve been disappointed a few times) and keeps me on the level. And creative.

So that’s my story. What’s yours?

Many Happy Returns of the Day   Leave a comment

rocket-happy-birthday

A birthday cake of dubious function and flavor

Tomorrow is my birthday. Amazing how they creep up on you. It’s not like I wasn’t prepared or anything; February 16 seems to come every year, at least once. And sure, I’d like a cake like the one pictured above, although I think I’d stand a fair distance from it, should the attractive brunette choose to light it.

I’ve heard the expression, “Many happy returns of the day” said to me on my birthday. It sounds really nice, if you ask me. But what exactly is getting or being returned here? I did a little investigation, and here’s what I came up with:

  1. The Earth has gone around one time and arrived at approximately the same place as it did a year ago, so made a return.
  2. It’s the name of numerous television show episodes, films and songs.
  3. One’s birthday will be full of happiness and joy, necessitating a wonderful return on the “investment” of a birthday.
  4. As found in Wikipedia’s entry for the phrase:

    …by Lady Newdigate in a letter written in 1789 (and published in Newdigate-Newdegate Cheverels in 1898)[1]

    “Many happy returns of þe day to us my Dr Love”

    The letter was written in London on the 31st of May 1789 by Hester Margaretta, Lady Newdigate to her husband, Sir Roger Newdigate, 5th Baronet, and refers to a wish for their wedding day.

  5. Winnie-the-Pooh preferred using this greeting as he wished his friends a happy birthday.

Now, I’m not one of those who gets all teary-eyed when I’ve gained an extra year or two. I mean, I can’t help it, nor can anyone. I get more upset with circumstances surrounding my life than the actual years marking its passage.

But there is something I can do, and that’s celebrate. It’s an abbreviated vacation from all the woes, sufferings and stupidity that seem to fill my life these days, and it’s an excellent excuse to eat all of the things I shouldn’t be eating (except on Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, National Potato Day, etc.). Plus, I get to hang with my friends and complain about things in general, all while overindulging.

So what will I do on my birthday? Get up, go to the gym, continue working on my second novel, eat, get dressed, go out, eat, have some fun, eat cake, drink and otherwise be merry.

Life is rough. Why make it any harder by not celebrating a birthday?

 

The Surreal Life   Leave a comment

sleep

I’ve been asleep at the wheel lately. Dali’s picture best describes how I’ve been feeling as of late: melted, propped up, in a barren landscape far from any civilization save for a remote outpost of questionable value.

Life isn’t always fair. It splays out an awful lot of unwanted changes, blitzkrieg-style. For the past year, I’ve been caught in that proverbial rock-in-a-hard-place spot that makes it hard to go forward. Seems like I’m forever exhausted. Depressed. Unmotivated and uninspired.

Last autumn, I shared these sentiments with a fellow writer friend. He’d been thrown a horrible loss – his father was killed – and said that writing was the best therapy to work through his grief.

Took me a long while to sink in, but yes, he’s right. Absolutely right. I have to force myself to lose myself in dreams, not to sleep, but to write.

It’s been so long that I’ve created anything meaningful that I nearly lost faith in my abilities. What if my words amount to drivel? Shapeless streams of verbiage? Worse, an over reliance of adverbs?

I sat down with my second manuscript, still uncompleted, and gave it a good, hard look. It’d been months since I added anything to it, plus I have about two-thirds more to write before it’s finished. Sure, there’s a lot of changes I need to make, stuff needs to be tightened up and fleshed out. But you know what? It’s not bad. It’s not even a real first draft yet.

As I read through it, I gathered the plot’s flow in my brain. The characters arose from their long rest and seemed refreshed to resume their roles in my imagination. They even gave me a few clues as to how they’d like to beef up their storylines and get that action rolling once more. After going through it a few times, misty sketches became solid outlines. And here’s something positive: once I got that manuscript back inside me, the holes in the plot that dogged me so much are now filling in. No more potholes, but real patches to sketchy patches that vexed me.

My sister Gwen’s been egging me on, too. Said I need to get on with it. Claim my talent back from the dead and stop crying zombie. Get on with it already. Of course, she’s right.

Perhaps the best words of wisdom I found was from a friend on Facebook, yet another writer. He posted this link from Cracked.com – “How To Be a Better Person.” It’s REALLY hard to admit to the truths in it, but the short of it is that if you want to be a success, you’re going to have to work your ass off, accept failure as a learning opportunity, and expect to keep working until you either give up or shrug off frustration, obstacles, naysayers, pests, pessimists, and your own laziness and limitations in order to succeed. See, the longer you work at something – and it doesn’t have to be writing – the better you become. That, and all the losers quit, therefore opening your field a little wider. And that, my friends, is where an opportunity might show up.

Now, I need to take my own advice. I’ve been out of the writing loop so long that it’s a little scary sticking my feet back in the icy pool. It’s going to take a few dips before I get used to the numbness, but after a while I’ll get used to it again. And I’ll swim.

Here’s to 2017. My year of literary triumph, and yours too.

 

 

NY ComicCon 2016 – Reading the Small Print   Leave a comment

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The Mad Geniuses Behind First Law of Mad Science, and Me

So I went to NY ComicCon on Saturday, October 8, 2016. And sure, I could tell you about all the mind-blowing, bigger-than-bejeezus and whammo-bap-biff sights that assaulted my senses during my visit, along with the claustrophobic cosplay crowded aisles.

But no, I won’t. Instead, I’ll tell you about what everybody should be noticing, and that’s the large imaginations behind the smaller prints just waiting to be discovered.

Instead of jamming my way into the bigger, more crowded booths, I took the path less travelled – the Small Press section of the convention.

There, I found extraordinarily friendly, helpful, entertaining people, even if I didn’t make a purchase. All of these people readily shared their stories about how they managed to make it to NYCC 2016, what inspired their work, why they keep going and the sacrifices they made along the way. Clearly every one of these people are devoted to their craft, often a labor of intense love rewarded each time someone turns the pages of their works…or contributes to their Kickstarter project.

So it’s with that spirit I introduce to you some of the representatives of small presses that I met. I only wish I could write about all 40+ of them, but time and space only allows for these. Please support their works and visit their websites. I’ll guarantee you it’s time well spent.

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First Law of Mad Science, Written by Oliver Mertz and Mike Isenberg, Art by Daniel Lapham, Colors by Jeff McComsey and Oliver Mertz, Lettering by Mike Isenberg and Oliver Mertz, Cover by Ryan Brown and Issue 3 Inks by Lonny Chant. Published by Noreon Labs. Website: http://www.firstlawofmadscience.com.

I met the creators on a casual stroll, when I gazed up at the title of the first volume, “Work Until Your Family Is Sad” made me break out in laughter. Please forgive me if I get your names messed up, guys, but I think it was Oliver who gave me the impressive elevator speech that hooked me to buy this book. And while I didn’t have a chance to read it today (sorry, I had to go to work!), the bit I glanced through LOOKS GREAT! I also have a to get through FLOMS Science Club Mixtape. It’s a compendium of several artists’ works and stories.

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Man Vs. Rock, Volume 1, Written by Victor Detroy and Kevin Bieber, Art by Jared Lamp, Colors by Summer Fitzgerald. http://www.manvsrock.com

 I knew I had a winner yesterday when I walked up to this booth and one of the artists responsible for its creation acted it out for me. Obviously, I had to buy it. The creatives behind this project are a team from Maine and Texas who now live in Las Angeles but came to New York ComicCon. And as my personal dramatic reading demonstrated, this graphic novel features a strong female character AND a rock. While the female character is a strong as a rock, it’s the rock who’s the heavy hitter here. Don’t ask me to reveal all the severe consequences throughout history that the rock foisted on humankind, but if you get your hands on this book, you’ll certainly find out! Learn the truth and purchase, folks!

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Toolbox, Written by Kyle Gnepper (website – http://www.unshavencomicsonlin.com), Art by Kristen Gudsnuck (website – http://www.henchgirlcomic.com).

Another charmer of a work, this is a family-friendly graphic novel anyone can enjoy. It looks like fun and I can’t wait to read it! To quote the back cover, “Robot Justice Is Efficient Justice! Toolbox is about a future off world human settlement that reprograms a construction robot to protect them from bandits and dangerous wild life in the area. It’s equal parts science fiction and western adventure. At its heart it’s about technology, sisterhood, character and what it means to be a family.”

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Agent 81 and the Black Train, Written by Robert Geronimo, Illustration by Chilly Bliss, Ascalon Press, NY http://www.ascalonpress.com.

I spoke to the author, Robert Geronimo, for quite some time and his enthusiasm is infectious. He came up with a twisty take on World War II. I’m going to quote the back cover because it explains the plot better than I can remember. “AGENT 87 AND THE BLACK TRAIN – A true master of disguise, martial artist and linguist, Agent 87 is the world’s greatest spy. With the Second World War coming to its peak, 87 goes undercover to investigate a lethal weapons project in a Japanese-occupied region in China. With the help of a French weapons expert and a greedy mercenary, 87 unravels a plot filled with death and horror, discovering she must stop a deadly train carrying the destruction of mankind as its cargo.”

I must also add that Ascalon Press also has a division, Ascalon Games, and they’ve created an app called “Little Maia and the Lunar Express – a game where the player evades enemy rockets, aliens and a giant space monster.

A Ticket To Heartbreak and Heaven   Leave a comment

2016 NY ComicCon

I got excited when the yearly reminder to sign up for October’s NY Comic Con appeared in my inbox. For years, I swore I’d love to attend but life always interfered somehow: had to work and couldn’t get off, or something was up with the kid, or after all the bills got paid, the till’s empty and so were my pockets.

This year, however, was different. The stars aligned in my favor. For once.

Upon receiving the notice I needed to fill in my fan verification form, a method of preregistration, I counted the days until the site opened. As one can imagine, in years past, tickets to this event were hotter than asphalt in Florida on an August afternoon, and acquiring them often required a Ferengi’s ability to pilfer, smuggle and trade. So who can blame the folks at NYCC to try a new method of ticket selling so that anyone who wanted to attend actually could…legitimately?

Once the Fan Verification site went live, I filled in my name, my husband’s name and my son’s. It asked for email addresses. Since I was treating the family for tickets, I put my own email in all three. I’ve purchased tickets for various and sundry trade shows in the same manner, so why should this be any different?

Several days later, I received a notice that tickets were now open for sale for verified fans. After waiting in an electronic queue for well over an hour (lucky I hit the button right as it came live!), I purchased three tickets and was instructed that I’d need to go to another site to complete the sale. I got excited. Not only was my family going, I planned to surprise my son with his ticket, since the event takes place right before his birthday.

As I opened the site’s page to complete the sale, I noticed my email address went in on my designated field, but not on my husband’s or son’s. Strange, I thought, and went to read up on what I might be doing wrong. As it turned out, each person needs his or her own email address. What? Aren’t I buying the tickets? How come? From NYCC’s twitter feed, I quickly learned that many boyfriends, girlfriends, uncles, aunts and cosplay girls and boys believed as I did.

Suddenly, we were all shut out of living our dream. No 2016 NY ComicCon for us.

I called. The helpful and polite person on the other end verified what in my heart I realized was true: every ticket needs its own email address. If not, we’re very sorry, but we have to refund your money.

First, I wanted to cry.

Then scream.

Then kick myself for not following directions the way I should.

Enthusiasm and past Javitz Center purchasing experiences clouded my decision-making for this event. I hated myself for not following the directions carefully, but then again, why shouldn’t one person be able to buy a couple of tickets? It comes down to a factor more than just hoping to surprise someone with a nice treat: fraud. This convention is so rife with people elbowing out the legit crowd with overpriced scalped tickets, the powers that be decided to try another way.

Unfortunately, there were an awful lot of people like me, and all of us, including me, let NY ComicCon folks know how devastated we all were. All we wanted was a good time, fanning it up with our ilk, grabbing autographs and a pile of merch to take home and savor.

Yet, inside of me, a gut feeling told me to hang on. Just wait, it said, there’s going to be good new yet…

And there was.

Out of the blue, I received a nice, polite email from NY ComicCon. Apparently, they heard us. Chose to do the right thing. Gave us a second chance.

We had a brief window to verify the fans we wanted to purchase tickets for, only 24 hours, but that was more than enough time. I scrambled online and fan verified both my husband and kid. Twenty-four hours after that, I purchased tickets for all three of us.

My heartbreak turned out to be a ticket to heaven. Now we’re all going!

Hope to see you there.

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