Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

My Summer Reads   Leave a comment

1930s-girls-in-swimsuits-reading

Since I write speculative science fiction with strong female protagonists, I’d thought I’d spend this summer reading female sci-fi writers writing books with strong female protagonists. You know, to see how they do it. Maybe I can pick up a few tips here and there.

So what’s in the pile?

All of Elizabeth Moon’s “Vatta’s War” series. I accidentally picked up the fourth book in the series, “Command Decision,” not realizing it was a later entry in the storyline when I bought it. I read it anyway. Sure, I didn’t get some references but it didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying it. I’ve got four other titles to read so I know what’s going on. Then after that, Ms. Moon added “Vatta’s Peace” to the collection. I’m looking forward to adding that to the list as well.

Last winter, as I sat on the examination table waiting for my doctor to see me, I occupied myself by reading “Command Decision.” The doctor walked in and noticed the book. He immediately pulled it from my hands and said, “This series IS AMAZING! So what did you think of the others?” That’s when I admitted I hadn’t read them. He then goes on telling me the plot lines, characters’ foibles and a few spoilers. While I enjoyed his hearty endorsement of the series, I fortunately forgot most of what he said. I’d love to find out for myself what dangerous situations Kylara Vatta has to dig her way through.

Octavia E. Butler, “Parable of the Sower,” “Parable of the Talents,” and “Kindred.” Oh, wowThis writer has me gobsmacked. No wonder she was the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and two-time winner of both the Hugo and Nebula awards. Not only is her prose wonderful, her stories will leave you on the edge of your seat. One can never be certain about anything in her worlds. Twists aplenty. Beloved characters die. In her worlds, nothing is certain except uncertainty.

I read “Parable of the Sower” first. Butler predicted the present measles epidemic when it was written in 1993. In “Parable of the Talents,” she predicts a Trump-like character who runs and wins the office of president, and the ensuing rise of racism and rabid Christians  wreaking havoc on an already fragile America.

Butler’s foresight all those years ago gave me chills. I’ve actually put sticky notes in the pages where her words ring close to true. But my favorite is the sayings she created in the books, and one in particular:

“All that you change, changes you.”

Right now I’ve begun “Kindred.” I’ve only read the first chapter and the range of detail and emotions she conveys has me hooked.

My sister teaches college. Her school offers a course on Octavia E. Butler’s literature. I only wish I lived nearby. I’d audit the class!

Happy Summer Reading, Folks!

 

 

 

 

Limited Universe   Leave a comment

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It’s been roughly a year since I’ve written in this blog. There’s a reason for that, actually. And it’s as vast as the Newfoundland wilderness, as pictured above.

I’ve been thrusting all my efforts into completing my book edits, rewrites, corrections, updates and such things one does to get a manuscript off to my agent. It took a lot more time than I ever thought it would. Truly.

The story is tech-heavy. Every time I thought I had something fresh and new, my take on whatever technology I included in my story seemed old and antiquated with each revision. So I wound up taking great chances on what finally ended up in there. God, I hope what I created sounds plausible and not stupid…

My agent received the manuscript two days before Christmas. Then I took a sorely-needed break. Turned my attentions elsewhere. Read two wonderful novels I should’ve read long ago: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders and Walkaway by Cory Doctorow. Plus I read a series I’d been meaning to get to: Elizabeth Moon’s Vatta’s War series.  So all of that kept me quite busy.

Reading after writing is like a wonderful spa visit. I immerse myself deep into another writer’s prose, drinking it in like a gulp of fresh mountain air. It’s resetting my imagination. I enjoy seeing how others put words to good use, to describe things in other ways, to invent new realities.

And after I turn that last page and finish the book, I feel a sense of regret. Of saying goodbye. Letting my new friends go and continue on with their lives without me. Because you know those characters will.

Maybe that’s why I chose to write a series. I’ve started the second book now. Figured it was a good time to do so, now that my agent has the first.

To tell you the truth, I got a little sick with my characters. I visited them so often I’m sure they got fed up with my prying into their activities daily. And just when they thought I’d leave them alone once and for all, I rewrote a scene. Or ten. Ripped out their old dialogue and inserted fresh.

Now, my characters move forward, onto new adventures. Face staggering challenges! Question their place in the order of things. Will they make it? Or will they succumb to a deadly nightmare?

Truth be told, I know how the second book in the series starts, ends and gets to the middle, but I’m fishing around for plot movement right about now. I’ve got plot holes that’ll rival black holes right now. And when I do, I take a break and visit posts from NASA, ISS, JPL and Emergency Kittens on Twitter.

But it’s my goal to continue up with this blog. It’s nice to have a diversion apart from writing my book. I missed posting it and promised myself I’d do it every week…but never did. So I will.

I hope you’ll follow along in my few adventures in writing, as well as my musings including the moon, stars and beyond.

 

Posted April 2, 2019 by seleneymoon in Editing, Personal Anecdotes, Sci-Fi Books, Writing

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When the Writer Can’t Write   1 comment

Once again, I find myself at a loss for words.

I sit in front of the computer, unable to move forward with any discernible thoughts. It’s not as if I have writer’s block. It’s worse. I can’t explain why I’ve lost my ability to create.

My brain begs to differ. All inside of my head there’s a rambling of ideas and plot lines. As I work, I resolve my characters head-hopping ways and force them to tell a story from only one side’s perspective. I’ve figured out how to end that book of mine so that any reader will gasp and say, “OMG! WTF!!” But when I actually open the files and attempt to take on the edits I need to do so I can once and for all submit the book to my agent…no words come calling.

My spirit isn’t up to the task. I can’t even manage to keep up this blog, which I used to write twice a week. Now if I manage two entries a month, it’s an achievement.

You see, I’ve had some significant life changes. The loss of both my parents, my marriage and my career in an 18-month span all added up. Writing lessened the sting. This blog, plus my book, kept me going during the darkest hours. I have a friend who lost his father in a tragic accident and his balm for dealing with his unbearable pain was writing. He encouraged me to keep at it. I did, and it helped. Some of my best stuff happened after pushing back tears and willing myself to concentrate. Use that emotion somewhere, I thought, and as I dug down, I felt the sharp sting my characters faced during a conflict. And as my sister will tell you, that’s where and when my best writing occurred.

Then something odd happened when I moved out of my former home to a new town and began a solo life once more: much as I wanted to, I couldn’t write. Anything.

For fifteen years I lived in a house with my husband and son. Our lives revolved around each other, no matter how awful things turned, and while things grew odd and often painful, that house still was my home. Then I moved out and lived alone. That didn’t bother or frighten me, it’s just how my life panned out and I accepted it. As mentioned in my last blog, I pulled out my computer and resolved to write again. As much as I’d will myself to, those damn words refused to cooperate. There’s only so long one can stare at a screen and not get bug-eyed, especially if there’s no reward for the effort. So I’d give up and feel worse than before.

One afternoon, having the day off from the retail job I took to survive, I regarded a chair from my mother’s former bedroom. She’d had it reupholstered in ecru, with a delicate floral pattern tangled in the weave. Mom set it in the corner next to her dresser. She never sat in it. As she approached the end of her run, that chair provided an excellent substitute for her closet. The same shirts and pants she wore day in and out rested on its back and seat. Now it sits in my living room next to the fireplace. I ran my hand across the top, smiled and thought of her. I sat down in it, leaned back and stared out at nothing in particular. My mind emptied.

And there I remained, for over an hour, paralyzed.

When I finally snapped out of it, I grew frightened. What’s happening to me? I thought.  A tsunami overwhelmed my brain. All that I’d been through, all the loss, the pain, the hurt, betrayal, all of it, consumed me. I gasped for air, sobbing, still in that chair. Is Mom in this chair with me? Is she making me feel this way? Am I cracking up? How did I get like this? What’s wrong with me?

See, I’d been muddling through for so long I’ve never had much opportunity for grieving over all I’ve lost. But in that moment in a chair that never had much use, it handed me a big dose of pain. The tears dried up, as they will, only to be replaced by numbness I’d never felt before. My eyes closed. Sank my head in my hands. Felt my heart race and ring in my ears.

And again, yet another hour drifted passed, without notice.

Finally, I pulled myself up and out of the chair. This is no way to be. The sun shone through the venetian blinds.  A thick carpet of leaves swirled in the breeze on my lawn. A noisy truck roared down the main street. Dogs barked. Life continued in my new hometown, unafraid, normal, as it should be. I glanced out the window and noticed the ruddy shade of the mountains that ring the town. It’d grown late in the day and sunset approached. I could have written this afternoon…why didn’t I?

I’ve beaten myself up too much as of late. That book of mine will be completed. Soon. But I’ve got to reclaim my ability first. And rather than overwhelm myself with what I need to do, I convinced myself I’ll start small, a little bit each day, and write anything, even if it’s once sentence. I can tweet, I can comment on Facebook, I can keep a blog.

It’s writing. It’s a start.

 

 

Posted December 5, 2017 by seleneymoon in Writing

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Moving + Writing = AAAAAAUUGHH!   Leave a comment

Moving Day ~ 1955 North American Van Lines ad, Roger Wilkerson, artist

Here we see a happy, cheerful event, perhaps a turning point in this 1950s perfect version of setting up home in a nice, shiny suburb. The movers, meticulously dressed in sharp, crisp uniforms, shift this family’s worldly goods from the immaculate truck into, one presumes, an immaculate house. A perky puppy leaps near the cute kid’s trike as Mom beams her approval. Smart move! she’s thinking, Now, what box did I pack the scotch in…

In the real world, moving is no such thing as presented above. I should know – I’ve just moved. On top of that I downsized. Who needs all that space when you can streamline life down a few more boxes than a college dorm graduate?

My belongings originated from several destinations: a storage space miles from my new home, plus the stuff I was dragging my former house. I selected some pieces from my parents’ house (would you leave behind the Danish modern meets American Southwest bedroom set? Or the glass lamp with the faded lemons on the inside? I think not) brought more from my last house and wedded the two in domestic bliss.

Since I always need to write, my desk and computer get first dibs on placement and setup. Trouble was, I pulled out all of the wires and neglected to individually wrap/identify each. A spaghetti pile of cables defied my will as I labored to separate them and identify their purpose. My brain scrambled. Now what does this go to again? After a while, I sorted and connected, but not without a gourmet selection of unprintable words.

And even though staring at my computer allows me to feel somewhat normal, a partial turn of my chair reminds me of how much I have yet to do. Sure, I took the worse of my boxes and shoved them in the basement. It’s easy. There they’ll stay, until that next spurt of boundless energy springs forth, oh, let’s say, in 2025. Do I really need that stuff anyway?

What I need is to write. I have a whole host of line editing to do for my book, plus this blog, as well as other pieces and bits I’ve promised to do. While I might be frustrated, I’d be worse if I didn’t have my instrument of creativity available. So please excuse me while I return to my most important task at hand: ignoring the boxes while I figure out how I’m going to make my unpublished work a  runaway bestseller.

Now, where was I again? Ah yes, Chapter three…

 

Posted October 29, 2017 by seleneymoon in Sci-Fi, Sci-Fi Books, Writing

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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!

 

 

 

Rough Passages   Leave a comment

I’ve lost track the amount of times I’ve rewritten passages in my manuscript. I slave, I toil, I backspace…only to create something that’s not quite there, yet. It’s as if I’m skipping through daisies, only to fall in a wet, steaming pile of cow plop.

Ugh. I know.

Beta readers all love my story. An actual librarian thought it was terrific. So did an editor. Even someone working in a related industry praised my work. Talk about confidence building. Surely my words are all that…

…or not.

For a great perspective, compare sending out your manuscript to dating. There’s this terrific person, filled with depth and action, with a healthy splattering of romance tucked inside, seeking to meet that perfect partner. After meticulous grooming, advice from friends and lively rehearsals in front of the bathroom mirror, it’s time to face the scene. Step out and seek. Shake a few hands, make introductions, even sip cocktails. Hearts beat faster, breath quickens, a few beads of sweat pearl up around the hairline. A card is passed along, hopeful wishes and tempered optimism dare blossom in one’s heart.

Days pass.

Nothing occurs, not even a text.

Your worst fears are realized, in the form of rejection. It might be that your hopes drowned in a vast pit of slush piles, or forgotten email attachments, or ignored – ghosted – and forgotten. It’s as if that spiffy new dress or snappy hairstyle did nothing to convince Mr./Ms./Mx. Prospect you’re perfect. Great, even.

So what was it you did? What did I say? Or not say? Or do? In the dark of the night, as you ponder for the billionth time, nerves fray and frustration builds. Your abilities feel as if they’ve drifted out to space.

Some might even give up altogether.

Well, look. No one’s perfect. Not even geniuses get it right on the first try.

Sometimes a writer gets too close to the manuscript and perspective skews. Or too many people have said too many contrasting things and you, the writer, can’t figure out what to do any more. The story’s muddled, the characters are unlikable, the plot’s unrealistic, the dialogue’s way too formal.

So here’s a suggestion: seek professional advice.

I’m not saying go out and find a book doctor. Sure, they might help put your story back on track, but they’re expensive and offer no guarantees.

Instead, seek out an honest-to-goodness writer’s group. There are many, but not all have professional writers with published works at major houses (and before you say anything, self-publishing doesn’t always count). Attend workshops they hold. There, you’ll be shown how to strengthen your skills on a variety of topics, from developing compelling characters, shoring up a sagging middle or crafting a dynamic opening line. See if they have a critiquing group where your work can get an honest evaluation. Maybe even a member might be willing to give your manuscript a thorough review. Tell you all about the rough passages and plot lines.

Writer’s groups often meet at libraries, book stores or other public places. Next time you venture into one of these places, don’t hesitate to ask.

Search the web for writers’ conferences. There are many, but legitimate writer’s conferences don’t charge thousands of dollars and promise that your book will be published. A typical writer’s conference will be held in a hotel, with representatives from industry leaders, such as literary agencies and publishers. There’s a roster of known authors attending who’ll give workshops on skill development.

Here’s a great place to start: Publishing and Other Forms of Insanity.  It’s a terrific blog filled with all sorts of links, contacts, industry news and conferences. Bookmark it. Check it often.

And most important of all, have faith. After slogging through all those rough passages, you might just discover how to sail through smooth seas. Besides, you never know…you might meet a great date!

 

Snap Sci-Fi: Rejuvenation   3 comments

Credit: 1st edition of John Jakes’ novel The Asylum World (1969)

If ever there were a time for rejuvenation, this was it.

Philippa gazed at herself in the mirror. Twelve years on and she still managed to cling to the hope that her youth was endless. The evidence, reflected before her, proved otherwise.

But something deep within her began to change. She struggled to make sense of it.

A boring ex-wife, doomed to a midlife divorce and a minimum wage job. No hopes, no dreams, no anything. Each day she arose confirming this self-inventory, and every night she struggled to sleep, haunted by her personal truths.

But today, she noticed something not visible: her memory. She recognized the face in the mirror, but not its purpose. Philippa’s hands traced the contours of her cheeks, her neck, even pinching the flesh to examine its authenticity. Nothing. She turned away and walked the interior of her home seeking clues, feeling reassured that her mother’s artwork hung from the walls, last night’s leftovers expected to become today’s lunch, and Sunday’s crossword needed a few more clues to be solved.

What changed?

She opened a small drawer in her nightstand. Crumpled behind the junk that naturally accumulates within it hid a piece of paper. She unfolded it and read it out:

My Testimony

Be it said by me, Philippa Jrzowski, that no longer shall I exist. Instead, my soul will be inhabited by unknowns. My thoughts shall be those of indeterminate usefulness. I shall wrest whatever I can from what ever I become, if for no other reason than to live. And I mean, LIVE.

Enough, thought Philippa, enough. She smoothed out the paper and lay it on the comforter.

She returned to the mirror, gazing hard at the image before her. This time, however, a woman appeared more fierce than before. Philippa reached towards it and clutched its edges, bringing it closer, blurring her focus. She smiled.

“Exactly,” said Philippa. “And now, I mean to do just that.”

 

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