Thursday, February 4, 2016

Writing vs Everything Else

When does writing take over and everything else fall by the wayside?


My Latest Bout of Creativity-Induced Hermitobia*


For me, it happens when I am utterly inspired by my writing. The latest bout of intense creativity began around mid-October, and lasted until this very week when I finished the second draft of my latest novel.

For the past three months, I've done little to no online socializing or blog posting. In fact, I feel as if I am coming up out of a deep well. This well is perpetually replenished by a font of creativity, but it also blocks my view of the outer world unless I peer straight up at the sky.

Wow! What a pretty place I've been stuck inside!
Well by Sally.
Licensed under CC by 2.0.


Emerging From the Well


So what does it feel like to emerge from this well?

Well, life has gone on up above me, and I have to catch up. Did I know the primaries were beginning? No. Did I keep up with other writers, bloggers, artists and photographers I normally follow? Other than a few exceptions, no. Did I even read many books during the past three months? No!

However, I emerged, soaked from well-water, with a second draft of my newest novel (thankfully I have a waterproof laptop... all right, enough with this metaphor!). So my sojourn was worth it and more. I feel contented, and pleased, and ready to take on some new challenges while my beta readers have at it.

What does the future hold? I'll be working on my next novel, while at the same time doing a lot of interior painting and redecorating, hiking more, and gearing up for springtime.


Springtime Brings Yet Another Chance to Create


Springtime flowers already bloom in the desert of Arizona,
where we are staying now.

I feel like saying how I always greet the morning, "Hello, world!" And I'll add, "It's nice to be back among the real world for a while, until I hop back inside my deep well!"

*Hermitobia: Hermit-like behavior periodically exhibited by a person so intent upon her or his chosen task that the rest of the world falls by the wayside.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Quays of Lac-Carge: Steampunk and Gaslamp Intersect


How Can One Explain a Novel? I'm Not Sure One Can!


My latest opus, in all its glory!

How To Pigeonhole Classify Quays

I wrote Quays 5 years ago. It was when Steampunk and Gaslamp fantasy (the two genres which I waffle between classifying it as... Steampunk usually wins out) were much more fringe than they are now.

It was also when self-publishing was not as common as it is now.

Thematic Veins Running Through the Narrative

Commonalities

This novel features themes and tropes common to other pieces of my fiction: parents missing or dead; a childless main character; a personal goal or vendetta intersecting with a grand, world-shattering event; a totem or animal choosing the main character, and a sense that things don't always progress linearly in life.

Differences

A Male Main Character
Quays has differences, though. It is the only one of my novels with a male main character. I don't know why I wanted to write about him, but I just did. I felt like this character was male. In other words, there wasn't anything I could do about it after he first strolled into my head.

Science Fiction? Fantasy? Why Not Both!
Also, there is an intersection of science fiction and fantasy. My other works fall more into one side or the other. That is just how it came about. To be strict Steampunk, I believe many readers would say that a piece of fiction should not contain any fantasy. However, I have never been much for following rules (especially in my fiction), and so the novel contains elements of both genres.

Winter: A Character Unto Itself
A third thing that this novel contains is winter. It's a winter that has nothing to do with spells or evil Winter Witches, but it adds a plot element that becomes almost a character unto itself. Winter, for anyone that has lived in a cold climate, certainly can be just as deadly as a mortal enemy.

Compressed Timeframe
A fourth thing is that the novel takes place in just a few weeks, aside from the epilogue. My other novels tend to have much more of a grand sweep. The passage of time takes the place of winter in these other novels, again, until time itself becomes another character.

Humor and Light

Given the constraint of genre and time, plus the added stranglehold of bitter cold, Quays is filled with moments of true friendship, adventure, delight, beauty and love. It also has humor, a time or two almost as much as I could stand to give it without turning a scene into a farce. The dark, despairing, disgusting and desperate parts of this novel cried out for laughter to balance them out.

A Denouement and a Treatise on Friendship

I love Quays. Of course I would love it, I hope, having written it and published it.... And yet I can attest that some of the moments in this novel feature the kindest hearts and truest friendships I have ever written about. The main characters would die for each other, but would of course all much rather go on living together instead. This great-heartedness is a central point of the novel, and the characters' friendships go beyond family or master-servant, or even that of lovers, or any other easily classified relationship.

When a character saves the life of the person who has wronged him almost to death... well, that is the epitome of great-heartedness.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Thoughts on Holidays and Their Meaning in My Fiction

It's the beginning of the holiday season!



My calendar is stuffed at this time of year by holidays. My husband's early October birthday, Canadian Thanksgiving (due to my Quebecoise heritage and the fact that every year should contain at least two Thanksgivings), Halloween, American Thanksgiving, Winter Solstice, Christmas and New Year's Eve/Day. Whew! Festivals are squished in there at the end of the calendar for us.

First of all, end-of-year sounds either correct or ridiculous weather-wise, depending upon where in the world you are. I grew up in Maine, where there's about 1.5 months of hot weather. The rest of the time it's either cool or downright frigid.

In my 20's, I moved to Southern California, whereto my shockI found out that even Thanksgiving Day is not immune to 90F heat and blazing sunshine.

This put a big dampener in my excitement over the holiday season for the first few years after my move. A Thanksgiving without sweaters? A Christmas without a blizzard? Wha

And then I thought of other people the world over. Things like Christmas or Hanukkah are date dependent, meaning that if people celebrate these days, they'll have totally different experiences if they live in, say, Sao Paulo or Adelaide than they would in Portland, ME or Reykjavik.

Now, this bias of my childhood was reinforced by the TV/film media, who always portray the holiday season as full of hot chocolate and mittens. This realization would probably not have taken someone living in Palm Beach so long, haha.

Then, as I became more intrigued by different celebrations, I learned that many cultures start their calendars in different seasons. Spring is a popular time to start the new year, as everything is renewing itself.

All this doesn't even touch on the fact that there are also many cultures that have completely different calendars, some going by the lunar calendar. My fantasy WIP main character comes from such a culture, and she has trouble with the solar calendar because of this.

This entire holiday realization didn't end there. Although I had been a storyteller and writer my entire life, it wasn't until my 20's that I truly became serious at my craft. All my research on holidays began to percolate in my brain, and what came out was a realization about the festival need in all cultures. Even the most stoic people need some sort of gathering, sharing, food-centric festival. This need seems to cross all borders. Any civilization or world I made up would need to include that human trait in it, or the world itself would feel hollow.

The fact is, though, that those calendar-centric holidays like American Thanksgiving and New Year's Day are artificial when transported to different locations. The real celebrations germinate from what the actual climate, food sources, religious affiliations and temperament of the culture are at the place where the holiday is being celebrated.

I love to make my own worlds as natural and as believable as they can be. One of the biggest ways is to invest them with their own natural rhythms. This is, to me, one of the best ways of sharing my own love of the strange, wonderful and expansive SF/F world with my readers.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Inspiring Women: Martha Wells, Fearless Author

This is a post in the series, Inspiring Women.


To kick off my new blog series, I've chosen someone who is and has been a big influence on my writing: Martha Wells.

Ms. Wells writes Science Fiction and Fantasy. Her first published novel, The Element of Fire, is a total immersion into a new world and a kingdom called Ile-Rien. Her second novel, Death of the Necromancer (which was nominated for a Nebula) is set a few hundred years after her first novel.

These novels are brilliant in ways that I admire. Not only is Ms. Wells willing to relegate the characters of her first novel to mere murky figures of the past in her second novel, she is also willing to make difficult choices about the city, a-la Godzilla running rampant through your beautiful Sim City creation. In Death of the Necromancer, Ile-Rien is a mixture of new technology and stagnation. Not to mention a few of the characters who are odes to Sherlock Holmes characters, but I don't want to give too much away.

To round out the Ile-Rien saga, Ms. Wells wrote a trilogy that takes place several years after Death of the Necromancer. Talk about fearless, Ms. Wells is willing to bomb the city relentlessly and use it as a backdrop for a war that spans not just continents, but worlds. This trilogy is aptly named The Fall of Ile-Rien.

A rare still shot of the carnage the fearless Martha Wells wreaks in her fiction.

In between the Ile-Rien novels, Ms. Wells has written many stand-alone novels, all excellent, especially City of Bones.

In her newest series, Ms. Wells is fearless once again. She has created another new world, and one species in particular named the Raksura (the series is eponymous). It takes a masterful touch to write about a species so different from humans, and yet so compelling and relatable. Once again, I dislike giving too much away about any creative endeavor, so just let me say that one of the joys associated with reading about the Raksura is to see what customs they have that are wildly different than human customs. The Raksura are fascinatingly and satisfyingly alien, yet within that difference is a kernel of similarity.

Ms. Wells has a blog, and a website. She also tweets and her handle is @marthawells1.

As a fearless writer of Speculative Fiction, Ms. Wells' fiction is difficult to resist. Her style has inspired me to be more fearless in my own writing.


















Author Martha Wells
Website
Blog
Twitter

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

My New Novel: The Quays of Lac-Carge

My new novel is now available!


I'm thrilled with the cover. It conveys the feeling of the world I've built;
a gaslamp/steampunk era where magic still lives.


Lac-Carge is the capital of a nation on the brink of a new age. Gaslamps light the city streets, and sandusk pellets propel motorboats and the fledgeling balloon industry. Yet underneath this shiny new technology, magic still lives.

This is a world where Alexander was born into privilege and great wealth, only to have it stripped away by an insatiable queen. Four years later, he's conspiring with the quay workers at Lac-Carge's busy shipping port. Their goal? To wrest control of the quays back from the queen.

Yet no one realizes the depths to which the queen will sink. Not only is she intent upon keeping the property she stole from Alexander, she is also scheming against her own daughter, the heir to the throne.

Enter Alexander's old flame, now a daring aviatrix; and his boyhood schoolmate, a receded thaumaturge whose powers may not have receded as much as he claims. Together, they must save Lac-Carge and its princess from the queen's army of walking dead.

Join Alexander, Chloe and Hugh as they battle against everything the queen and her thaumaturgical allies can muster.


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Saturday, September 12, 2015

Happenings

What's happening in my life


A new novel


I'm putting a few final flourishes on a new novel, to be published next week! It's a steampunk/gaslamp fantasy, entitled The Quays of Lac-Carge. More details to come soon.


Travel: My Inspiration


We're getting ready to go to Yosemite for about three weeks in October. Despite living in California for several years, I've not been to Yosemite yet. I'm so excited to see what other people rave about. I'm an avid hiker, although I definitely feel content to stand on terra firma to watch rock climbers ascend sheer cliffs.

This is a scene from one of my favorite hiking trail near Oak Glen, CA.
I hope to be seeing a lot of the russet California autumn colors soon.


Current writing

I'm currently working on two novels at the same time. I've never done this before, but it's really working out. One is a science fiction novel with lots of space travel, and the other is fantasy with an alternate history twist. In general, my writing is split pretty evenly between the two genres. In the past, when writing a fantasy novel I'd usually stop in the middle to write at least one science fiction short story, and vice versa.

Although some people who this happens to may say that they get tired of one genre and have to move to the other, I prefer to think of it as I love both so much that I can't stay away from either one for long.

This time, as I work on two novels at once, I'm finding it so motivating to be able to go from one to the other. As of right now, though, I'm really going strong on the science fiction novel, and if it continues as it's going now I'll finish it before I return to the fantasy novel.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Saving It All For Later...


...or, the Holding Your Cards Too Close To Your Chest Syndrome

Pocket Aces by John Morgan.
 Licensed under CC by 2.0. Edited from original.


When do you let out a choice detail in your writing? When it's absolutely needed, or when the reader wants it?

In my opinion, it's a fine line. A fine line that I sometimes fall off to one side or the other.

Sometimes a story does need some exposition at the beginning. Other times, the story demands that the details be portioned out carefully (mysteries and thrillers are classic examples).

"Readers want dirt, but they also want you to do the hard work of spreading it out and working it into their lawn for them."

One tendency I have noticed in my previous writing self is that when I had a unique idea or detail, such as a villain, I would sometimes try to show its effects well before I showed what it actually was. I used to think this was clever, or suspenseful. It does add suspense. Yet, my tendency was to reveal the details of that villain during the denouement. The problem with this strategy is that the denouement already has so much going on that the details I'd so carefully hoarded were somewhat lost in the excitement.

An assignment I've given myself in a novel I'm editing now, is to put those exciting villainous details into the narrative much earlier than I would naturally want to. There is no point in wasting my ideas I've so meticulously crafted.

All stories need structure. A truckload of details can't be dumped onto the front lawn of your story without consequences. Yet that same truckload of details also can't be hidden in the neighborhood for the frustrated reader to suss out. I guess where I'm going with this filthy metaphor is, that readers want dirt, but they also want you to do the hard work of spreading it out and working it into their lawn for them.

Where do you fall on the great reveal/hoard divide?