Quote of the Moment

"What's Past Is Prologue." - William Shakespeare

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Camp NaNoWriMo and a Chain Story Continued

Many of us know about NaNoWriMo - that novel writing event that comes around every November. Writers dive in and attempt to accomplish 50,000 words of a rough draft, ignoring other less important things for the month, such as cleaning and sleeping.

Of course, November can be a less than ideal month for some to attempt this challenge. Thanksgiving dinner for those in the U.S. can interrupt the flow (especially if the writer is the one preparing that dinner, and for a lot of people). School is in full swing as well, students and teachers working on things not only during school hours, but at other times as well (teachers have homework too!). Oh, and usually the weather is turning into something plain undesirable, making it harder for those people with weather mood swings.

So, why November? Why not have this novel writing month in summer? Well, those of you who have desired such a change don't need to wait any longer because now there is Camp NaNoWriMo! Camp NaNoWriMo is run both in July and August, so the writer can choose the month that works best for him or her. Or maybe try both!

I know, you're about to say I'm a little late on the bandwagon with talking about Camp NaNoWriMo. July is almost over. I actually didn't know about it until June 29, and I had the blog slots all scheduled and planned. So, I'm talking about it now. And what better time to do so than when we're so close to August? There's always time to set up your tent, throw some logs on the campfire, and join in with the other campers...er, writers.

Will you join in on Camp NaNoWriMo? What do you plan to work on?

I hope to get down 25,000 words in August (I sadly know well enough that I don't have time to do 50,000 in a month right now), which is a scary goal to begin with, and I'll be continuing Dead As Dreams - I'm so close to the end, I can taste it!

Also, don't forget to watch my Facebook page for August's Writing Quest!

I'd be interested to hear what others are working on - feel free to post a little something in the comments, and if you're bold, post an excerpt as well. ;)

Speaking of the comments section, I'd also love it if we'd all continue the last chain story that was started. I have copied what we already have below for ease of reading (and added some paragraph breaks - heh).

The Rules: Add only 1 sentence at a time - you can take as many turns as you'd like, but you can't post right after you just posted! To get the ball rolling, I will tag someone on Facebook, so if you'd like to keep the story going, make sure to tag someone or e-mail someone to ask them to take the next turn.

The Story So Far:

A dandelion seed danced on the wind, weaving back and forth, finally alighting on the cap of an emerald mushroom. It quivered in the breeze, almost lifting off, but the skin of the mushroom cap rippled and engulfed the seed, casting off the fluff.

Tetrarch Q'rin hovered over the scene, dutifully noting the occurrence in her journal. Soon it would be time to face her new husband. She did not know how the arranged marriage would work, she being a scientist, and he being a royal bureaucrat, although she had an empirically based estimation...and a bad feeling.

She sighed, turning to go, but saw the mushroom twitch.

NEXT UP: A guest blog post from Liz Coley.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

MGOC Series on Fantasy (And Science Fiction) - Heidi Ruby Miller

Today we have Heidi Ruby Miller guest blogging for the Many Genres, One Craft series on fantasy (and science fiction). This is the last guest blog in the series. I hope everyone who has stopped by to read all the wonderful guest blogs have enjoyed them - I know I have! If you'd like to know more about Heidi and Many Genres, One Craft, please scroll to the bottom of the article.

Science Fiction Romance by Heidi Ruby Miller

I didn’t realize I was writing Science Fiction Romance when I started Ambasadora as my thesis novel for Seton Hill's Writing Popular Fiction graduate program. It took several critique sessions with a mixed grouping of genre writers before I appreciated the relationships in my novel were integral to my plot and my world.

That was 2006, and though SF Romance was around at the time, I had never heard of it. Then two things happened: one of my critique partners, Rachael Pruitt, suggested I read Heart of Gold by Sharon Shinn in the same semester that Catherine Asaro was the author keynote for the WPF program. I looked at my work differently from then on.

Gone were the days of writing for men. (Though it should be of telling interest to note that one of my critique partners and all three of my thesis readers were men, so in essence, the majority of my audience at that time were still male….)

I played up the emotional intensity and elevated the sensuality of the book, especially between the main protagonists, Sean and Sara. It proved to be an easy enhancement considering the society is essentially based on sex, as all societies really are. My Ambasadora-verse society is divided into an Upper and Lower Caste with sub-divisions among the Uppers. Add to that the concept of multiple partners and I couldn't help but write about how sexual relationships had a direct impact on my world. Then I went about finding other books like mine, and it was more difficult than I anticipated.

But thanks to wonderful online communities like SFR Brigade and SF Romance groups on Goodreads, I'm finding more to read within the genre. Recently, I've come to enjoy Jacquelyn Franks' The Three Worlds series which begins with Seduce Me in Dreams; Sara Creasy's Scarabaeus series; and I just started reading Pauline Baird Jones' Girl Gone Nova, which won the 2011 EPIC Award.

I wonder if what draws me to SF Romance is the idea that love can transcend time and space, being as much a constant as the speed of light. That's really what the Ambasadora-verse is based on—how love and desire rule everything else, including government, religion, and science.

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About the Author

Heidi Ruby Miller writes stories where the relationship is as important as the adventure. She loves science fiction, Chanel, action movies, and high-heeled shoes and teaches creative writing at Seton Hill University. Heidi co-edited the writing guide Many Genres, One Craft based on Seton Hill's MFA program in Writing Popular Fiction. The first book in her Ambasadora series was her thesis novel for the WPF program. You can find Heidi at http://heidirubymiller.blogspot.com and @heidirubymiller and on Facebook and Goodreads or interacting in person and online as a member of the following organizations: Authors Guild, Pennwriters, Broad Universe, SFR Brigade, SFPA, and EPIC.

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About Many Genres, One Craft

Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction (Headline Books, 2011)is an amazing anthology of instructional articles for fiction writers looking for advice on how to improve their writing and better navigate the mass market for genre novels.

MGOC is available for purchase from Amazon and Barnes & Noble!

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NEXT UP: Camp NaNoWriMo and continuing the current chain story!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

MGOC Series on Fantasy (And Science Fiction) - K. Ceres Wright

So, I thought Heidi Ruby Miller would be up this round, but instead we have a wonderful blog post from K. Ceres Wright! My apologies for the change of direction. And it's even more of a change of direction because this time it's about science fiction, so this time we'll say it's the Many Genres, One Craft series on fantasy (and science fiction). =) If you would like to know more about the author and Many Genres, One Craft, you'll find further information below the article.

Science Fiction by K. Ceres Wright

Older Influences

The first science fiction book I remembering reading was The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet. I would read it over and over again, and remember spilling cocoa on several of the pages as I sat in bed at night. What appealed to me was the notion of a lone scientist who could discover something important through a clever invention of his own, in this case, an undetected planet orbiting Earth. One could only see it through a special filter. The scientist persuaded two boys to build a spaceship and travel to the planet. Upon arriving, they found that the Mushroom people were dying due to a lack of sulfur. But they rectified the problem by leaving their pet chicken on the planet. Anyone who’s smelled rotten eggs know they contain a lot of sulfur.

As I got older, I discovered Isaac Asimov, and delved into his short stories and eventually his novels. After I read his Robot series and Foundation trilogy, I didn’t think science fiction could get any better. He had told an epic tale of human space travel over a span of about 20,000 years, and the rise and fall of the Galactic Empire, which mirrored, of course, the fall of the Roman Empire and the onset of the Dark Ages.

I think history is a wellspring of ideas for science fiction because you can take basic themes, events, and characters and just inject them into a new universe. Characters can make the same decisions as historical figures, for good or ill, but they may or may not get the same results. It just depends on the nature of the writer’s universe. For example, slaves threw open the gates of Rome to the Visigoths in 410 because they were fed up with oppressive treatment. However, if in your universe, the slaves are well treated and can expect to eventually climb the social ladder, the outcome would most likely be different. They may use the impending invasion as an opportunity to negotiate full civil rights, or they may defend the city and take advantage of the period of rebuilding to secure their rights. It could turn out any number of ways, but the important thing is to make sure the effects logically follow from the causes. And to do that, you have to make careful study of not only history, but human nature.

Speaking of human nature, out of all of Asimov’s books, my favorite character was Dr. Susan Calvin. She was intelligent and objective, like a detective of sorts, as she teased out the reasoning behind many a robot’s behavior. And she was quirky, preferring the company of robots to humans, as it were, not the stereotypical lone female in science fiction who needed rescuing. I think it was her so-called quirks that made her endearing.

Newer Influences

I love cyberpunk, but I came late, having first read Neuromancer by William Gibson in 2004. It was written in 1984. I had discovered it on the book shelf of a colleague at work. The cover was awful, but the promo at the top said it had won three major science fiction awards, so I thought it couldn’t be that bad. And when I started reading, I could hardly put it down. I was amazed by Gibson’s use of language. His prose was tight, efficient, hardboiled and reminiscent of Dashiell Hammett, but startlingly original, as were his concepts of “jacking in” to interface with computers. He sliced in pop references throughout the book, metaphors for the modern age. Gone were the pristine cities and heroic characters of traditional science fiction. Here were the anti-heroes, urban decay, and moral ambiguity representative of today’s society.

Another author who has captured my imagination in the realm of cyberpunk is Richard K. Morgan. In his book, Altered Carbon, a person’s memories and personality were stored in cortical stacks in the spinal column. When the body died, the stack could be downloaded to a new body, or sleeve. Stacks could also be copied and updated, to ensure against permanent damage to an already-downloaded version. The book’s protagonist, Takeshi Kovacs, was an ex-soldier whose sleeve had been enhanced with specialized neuro-chemical sensors that increased physical strength, intuition, and the five senses, delving into the realm of biopunk. Morgan’s writing style is hardboiled, as well, but makes use of beautiful descriptive narrative.

My Fiction

My short story, “The Haunting of M117,” in Genesis: An Anthology of Black Science Fiction, is not cyberpunk. I would describe it as a combination of science fiction and paranormal. My protagonist is a Gullah healer who’s been sent to a planet, along with practitioners of other religions and the occult, to exorcise demons that were released when particle beams collided inside the Titanic Hadron Collider on planet M117. She has a secret guilt, which she has to overcome, in order to save the others on the planet.

For the book I’m writing now, tentatively entitled, Cog, I’ve endeavored to use the hardboiled narrative style I like so much. I also enjoy making up new words, forcing the reader to use context clues to understand what I’m talking about.

My protagonist is an heiress to a wireless hologram company, and finds out one day that her father is in a coma, her brother embezzled money and skipped town, and the company’s vice president wants her dead. She’s forced to return to her friends from the street, back when she was a drug addict, for help. Here’s an excerpt:

He led a squad of skeemz rackers on the other side of Baltimore, in Owings Mills. They worked out of the basement of the mall. Nothing like Tuma’s operation, though. They were connected. Really connected. His programmers just sat, wearing fryers, writing skeemz for weeks at a time, their medinites monitoring and patching the effects of inactivity, nourishment forced into them intravenously. They looked like hollowed-out corpses, skin and flesh sagging on their bones, but man, the end product seemed worth it. Groundbreaking, visionary shit. Everyone wanted a Lydo skeemz. Best in the business.

We’ll see how it goes…

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About the Author

K. Ceres Wright is a writer and editor for a management consulting firm. Her story, "The Haunting of M117," appears in Genesis: An Anthology of Black Science Fiction, Book 1. Her poem, Doomed, was nominated for a Rhysling award. She lives in Maryland with her son, Ian, and daughter, Chloe.

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About Many Genres, One Craft

Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction (Headline Books, 2011)is an amazing anthology of instructional articles for fiction writers looking for advice on how to improve their writing and better navigate the mass market for genre novels.

MGOC is available for purchase from Amazon and Barnes & Noble!

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NEXT UP: Unless something catastrophic happens, I promise that next week we will have Heidi Ruby Miller's addition to the MGOC Fantasy Series!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

MGOC Series on Fantasy - Mike Mehalek

Today I have a new post in the Many Genres, One Craft Fantasy Series! This time Mike Mehalek is guest blogging. If you'd like to know more about the author and Many Genres, One Craft, please scroll to the bottom of the article.

Only Metaphor by Mike Mehalek

I was never good at writing fantasy. Even when I was a kid trying to mimic TSR’s (now Wizards of the Coast) choose-your-own adventure books, I knew something was missing. I still have those handwritten pages tucked away in an undisclosed, I’ll-take-it-to-my-grave location--Okay! Okay it’s in the filing cabinet under the printer, but you’ll never find the key (because the drawer doesn’t lock)--and they are pretty terrible pages. It’s a combination of inexperience, anachronisms, trying to copy something that has already been done, and not knowing how to incorporate the creative backstory and characters without just dumping them into my tale as carelessly as I dump sugar into my coffee each morning.

What really made this story and most of my fantasy writing crap--hell, almost all of my stories suffered this tragic flaw until I discovered the grizzly (and obvious) truth--was their lack of an ending. Not just an ending but a middle, and a late beginning too. You see I suffer from a genetic writing disorder on chromosome 20. Many people have this disease, but fortunately most are not writers. You see, where most writers possess a metaphor gene on chromosome 20, whether they know it or not, I have none.

The metaphor gene allows writers and storytellers to sprinkle symbols, language, characters, character actions, plot points, colors, textures, sights, sounds, setting, motif, irony, and other literary tools to convey a central theme or themes to their readers. Some readers lay it right out in front of you (Some writers can do it so readers “get” the metaphor without ever mentioning it, while others place it right before the reader so that his or her psyche can gorge on it like some sort of book vampire. (Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, for example, and Paul Harding’s Tinkers both explore the passage of time, coupled with the desire to return to the past, the former implicitly, the latter explicitly). A book’s metaphor is its lifeblood. Without it--call the morgue--it’s a “dead” book.

Enter Only Human (OH), the current name I am using for my urban fantasy manuscript, which was named Dragon during my sojourn at Seton Hill University. OH came into existence years before, as this question: what would it be like for a dragon if it had to spend its existence as a human? The question got me started on the manuscript, but it was an indirect question; and as I’ve previously mentioned about my writing, I never could make it beyond the first few pages before the story fizzled out. As I explored this question through the writing of OH, I realized that what I was really asking of my manuscript was “what does it mean to be human?”

It occurred to me, if I were to explore this theme, then my dragon needed someone in his life--someone that he cared deeply about. The creation of the character Kevin was a direct result of this revelation. And the story started writing itself. If I hit a wall, I spent time, mostly unconsciously, exploring that central question. What does it mean to be human?

More and more pages revealed themselves to me. Stressors from the plot points and action sequences created new interactions with these two characters and as much as I feel that OH is chockfull of violence, gore, humor, and suspense--the theme of love was all over the place; and when the final bullets flew and the six-inch long teeth stopped crushing bones to dust, my metaphor emerged from the flotsam. Love is what makes us human, and true love cannot die.

OH was insightful to me as a first time novelist in both its message and its use of metaphor. Despite my genetic makeup, I know that it is possible to write meaningful fiction and to complete volumes of prose if only I keep at it with persistence, dedication, and metaphor in mind.

So let me close with the words from a very dear friend of mine, a dragon, who taught me a little more about life than I did before I met him, and wish that you and your writing find “all the things you need, not everything you want but what you need. And I sincerely hope that every once in a while you too receive something better than you deserve.”

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About the Author

A friend once told Mike Mehalek that "writing will set you free," and he’s bought into that philosophy 110%. To him writing is a way to escape from reality, a means to earn a living, and a way to show the world that one person can make a difference. He feels fiction should be enjoyable at the surface, but it should also have enough depth that those willing to dive for it can find greater meaning. In 2008 Mike graduated from the Writing Popular Fiction program at Seton Hill with his thesis Dragon, an urban dark fantasy.

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About Many Genres, One Craft

Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction (Headline Books, 2011)is an amazing anthology of instructional articles for fiction writers looking for advice on how to improve their writing and better navigate the mass market for genre novels.

MGOC is available for purchase from Amazon and Barnes & Noble!

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NEXT UP: Another article in the MGOC Fantasy Series - Heidi Ruby Miller! Strike that, Heidi will not be until the following week. I've been informed that next up will be K. Ceres Wright!