Over the Shoulder and Down the Road

the-road-to-your-destiny-by-stealth37-nice-wallpaper-1600x1200In other words, looking back and looking ahead. :)

2013 was a great writing year for me. I started the year by completing revisions on One’s Aspect to the Sun, which then came out from Tyche Books in November. So far it’s been getting wonderful reviews and readers really seem to be enjoying it, which makes me very happy. That was my big news and my big accomplishment, but there were other writing accomplishments, too.

My story, “ePrayer,” came out in Third Person Press’ newest anthology, Grey Area, which also added another notch to my editorial belt. Grey Area was partially funded through our Indiegogo campaign, which was quite an experience in itself–time consuming and sometimes frustrating, but ultimately satisfying. Also with Third Person Press, we read submissions and made final decisions for our next anthology, Flashpoint, so we’ll be moving on to line edits for those stories soon.

I finished a short story for submission to another anthology, and that story became the jumping-off point for my NaNoWriMo effort. NNWM was a win, and although that story is far from finished, I’m pleased with it and will continue to work on it.

I also put two other novels into submission, in March. I’m still waiting to hear on those, and, to tell the truth, I’m getting impatient. Having been through the experience of waiting a long time for a publisher and eventually pulling the manuscript, I’ve vowed not to do that again. That’s a blog post all by itself, though, so I’ll talk more about that another day.

I worked on yet another novel manuscript, which is very close to being finished. I had planned a “novel swap” with a writer friend, but it didn’t come to be. I just couldn’t seem to finish the last few chapters in a way that satisfied me. With luck, he’ll still be willing and we’ll get to that this year, once I wrangle those chapters into shape.

I did preliminary revision work on two other unfinished novel manuscripts, and did some background work on Nearspace, the setting for One’s Aspect to the Sun. Yes, there are more stories to be told in that universe. No, I don’t have any details to share with you yet.

All of which is wonderful but…I could do more.

Once upon a time, I used to start more stories than I finished. Over time, I learned that this was, at least in part, due to starting to write too soon. I’d get an idea and start writing before I had let it “simmer” long enough in my brain. I don’t get along well with outlines, but I’ve learned that I do need to be able to see the structure of the story in my head before I start writing that first scene. That scene usually comes to me full-blown, so it’s very, very tempting to just “get it down” quickly. But as I said, I learned not to give in to that temptation, and finished more stories.

However, I find myself in the position of having a lot of unfinished manuscripts on my hard drive again. I’m not sure what the problem is now; partly trying to juggle too many projects, partly spending too much time on “writerly” things that are not actually writing, partly my propensity to procrastinate. (There, I’ve admitted it!) This time they are mostly novels, as opposed to short stories, thanks to NaNoWriMo, but still…they need to be finished. I came close to finishing that one I mentioned earlier, but didn’t quite make it.

Last year I set just one goal for myself for 2013; I would publish a novel. I’ve decided to make 2014 the Year of Finishing. I’m not saying I won’t start anything new this year, of course, but I really like many of these stories that are languishing only partially complete. I want to go back to them, finish writing them, and make them shine.

I also hope to blog more consistently this year. Last night at our New Year’s celebrations I threw two hopes into the resolution box: more consistency and less procrastinating in my writing life overall. With some luck and determination, they should combine to produce more finished manuscripts in the months to come. Stay tuned and we’ll see what happens from here.

Photo credit: Stealth37

There’s Something About A World-Build…

Asteroid_Parade_by_wordsmith101.pngSometimes I feel sorry for writers who don’t write science fiction and fantasy. I mean, sure, they often get more respect than we do…but they don’t get to build worlds.

They get to create settings, it’s true. But I’m talking about creating worlds…landscapes, starscapes, races, creatures, plants, languages, natural (and unnatural) laws–the whole thing. And then, once we’re through creating the worlds, we get to play in them. Even better!

There are, admittedly, dangers and traps for the unwary in world-building. Sometimes we get too immersed in that side of the process and build far more than we need for the purposes of the story. The worlds we create require a lot of internal consistency if they’re going to stand up to the scrutiny of editors and readers. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when world-building:

1. Find the balance between simplicity and complexity. Your world needs to have enough complexity to feel realistic and believable, but not so much that you get bogged down in details that don’t matter to the story. If you find yourself trying to decide what species of grass might grow on a hillside that your characters never visit, it might be time to pull back.

2. Do your research. We have access to tons of data on the planets in our solar system and some exo-planets, as well as on stars, nebulae, weather systems, geological patterns and all the other things you might have to consider for your world. Do your homework so you don’t make egregious scientific errors–they’ll call your entire story into question even if you do everything else right. If you want or need to do something extraordinary, make sure there’s some reasonable explanation (that is, reasonable within the context of the story) for why things are the way they are.

3. Be consistent. Yes, these worlds are imaginary, but they still require internal consistency if you want your readers to buy into the tale you’re spinning. If your world has magic, it needs rules, and these rules should be the same at the end of the book as they were at the beginning. If your world has science, make sure it works or that you make it at least plausible. Don’t play fast and loose with your readers’ expectations; give them a world that feels solid beneath their feet.

4. Keep records or notes. You’ve heard of the idea of tv and movie series having a “bible” that contains all the relevant data for the world of the series. It’s wise to do something similar with your own worldbuilding, so that you can easily maintain that necessary consistency. A document like this allows you to check details, note changes or exceptions, and use it as a quick reference when writing or editing. It can also evolve into a place for notes on future stories, conflicts, and the past and future history of your world.

5. Have fun. World-building can be a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun. It’s creating a playground that you will populate with characters and conflicts, and that you may keep coming back to as stories emerge from the cloth of this background you’ve woven. Take time to enjoy it. The more fun you have creating it, the more fun your readers will have visiting it…and they’ll want to return.

I spent quite a long time developing the Nearspace universe…although it’s grounded in our own solar system and star systems we know about, there was lots of room for creating and envisioning new planets, races, science, and language. And I do have a Nearspace “bible,” so with a little diligence, it’s easy to keep it consistent as well. I’m sure there are more stories to tell…

One’s Aspect to the Sun Cover Art

By now you might already have seen the wonderful cover art for my upcoming novel, One’s Aspect to the Sun. If not, just look to the right of this post. :) Oh, you want to see it even bigger? Click here.

The artist is the talented Ashley Walters, whose lovely portfolio you can find at her site, www.ashleywalters.net. I think she did a fabulous job!

What I really wanted to talk about, though, was the very enjoyable experience I had being involved in the creation of this cover. At the outset, Tyche sent me a very detailed questionnaire to complete, so that I could offer input on my vision of what the cover could/should look like. Of course, there were no guarantees that my vision would guide the creation of the cover. No publisher in his or her right mind would offer that–what if I wanted something totally crazy and inappropriate? But they asked, and it was nice to have the opportunity to think about it and share my thoughts. I knew I wanted a spacescape of some sort–most of the book takes place in deep space, so it only made sense to me to have that represented. Glance right–you can see why I’m pleased. :) And the ship emerging from the wormhole? That’s based on my deckplans for the actual ship in the novel!

In fact though, I’m glad now that not all of my suggestions were followed: I was very apprehensive about having any characters on the cover at all. I’ve seen too many covers with badly-executed characters (drawn, painted, or rendered) that immediately turn me off from reading the book. I voiced those concerns. However, I also provided the requested details about what the characters looked like, so that if the decision was made to put the main character on the cover, she could look as much as possible like I had envisioned her.

Then I sat back and chewed my nails.

I needn’t have worried. Tyche, and the artist, knew what they were doing. As soon as I had my first look at the cover concept I knew that everything was going to be all right. The character–that’s her. That’s Luta, pretty much exactly as I had envisioned her. And I still had numerous opportunities along the way to lend my voice to the project–did I like the concept? The colors? Luta’s face? Her makeup?

The typeface came last, and again I was asked for input. Did I like it? (I loved it.) What about the colour outlining the letters? (We did some experimenting to see what looked best.)

All in all, I felt very involved in the process, and made to feel that my input was valuable. That I had a stake, and a say, in what my novel was going to look like. Which, I know, is definitely not always the way it goes for the author, but is surely the proper way to go about things.

Welcome to Nearspace



“What’s Nearspace?” I hear you asking.

Nearspace is the future…a future where a dozen solar systems are linked by navigable wormholes, where nanotechnology has extended human lifespans, and where corporations vie for control of planets, star systems, and technology.

It’s the future of my novel One’s Aspect to the Sun, due out from Tyche Books in November, 2013.

Captain Luta Paixon of the far trader Tane Ikai needs to know why she looks like a woman in her thirties–even though she’s actually eighty-four. She isn’t the only one desperate for that information.

The explanation might lie with her geneticist mother, who disappeared over sixty years ago, but even if her mother is still alive, it’s proving to be no small task to track her down in the vast, wormhole-ridden expanse of Nearspace. With the ruthless PrimeCorp bent on obtaining Luta’s DNA at any cost, her ninety-year-old husband asking for one last favor, and her estranged daughter locking horns with her at every turn, Luta’s search for answers will take her to the furthest reaches of space–and deep inside her own heart.

Watch this space for news about the book, background on the world and characters, and short stories that take place in and around Nearspace. It’s going to be fun!