The Science Fiction Genre Part 3

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about world building because Earth Legend, my work in progress takes place on a space ship. The space ship in Earth Legend is intentionally designed to resemble Earth so that when the colonists, who have been in transit for up to a hundred years, reach their destination, they’ll feel comfortable in an Earth-like setting instead of wanting to remain forever on the ship because they’ve gotten used to it. Or, in some cases, lived in it their entire lives.

Because the ship resembles Earth, I hoped not to have to do a lot of world building. Because it’s hard and because I hate worlds that are so fake I’m embarrassed for the writer. I didn’t want to be embarrassed for me.

Where to start? With crops, of course, because it’s the story of a self-sustaining, greenhouse-imitating space ship. So how do you grow crops in a space ship in which gravity is the result of the ship revolving? There’d be gravity on the inside of the outermost skin and that’s where everyone would live. But would you have rain? Rain falls from the sky. In the case of the ship, that’s the middle and there’s no gravity there. So no rain because, without gravity it wouldn’t fall. So how to water crops? And what if the ship stopped spinning for some reason?  Hitting an asteroid. Mechanical problems. Whatever. Can’t have the trees, crops, and everything else fall upwards and suffocate everyone.  So what to do?

It was easy.  I imagined a dirt substitute, a substance that stays put and hold plants tightly, a membrane if you will, through which nutrient-rich water seeps to feed everything. And know what I realized? There already is such a substance or pretty close.  It’s found on many of those rooftop gardens that are now so popular.

So maybe world building isn’t so tough after all.  And maybe the best place to find ideas for other worlds is right here in our own.

 

I’m A Best-Selling Author

Why do writers put their works out there in cyber-space for free? Why do they give away something they’ve worked so hard over?

First, of course, they have something to say and if no one reads what they wrote, then why bother writing?

But some do so because they believe, or have been told, that if they put some of their work out there for free then they’ll eventually sell something. It’s a decent marketing ploy that works for some writers, though the numbers game means that most free reads will never lead to sales because there are websites and blogs with no purpose in life other than to direct readers to free or almost-free reads. Those websites and blogs have huge followings of people who will never pay for something again. No sales on the horizon for those writers.

So why do it?  The answer lies with Amazon.  Amazon used to have two lists of best-sellers. One list was of paid best-sellers and the other was of free best-sellers.  They’ve since gotten smart and deleted the free list, but it’s still there if you know where to look. And when you look, you’ll discover that Amazon’s software doesn’t differentiate between books that sell for $5.99 and those that sell for $0.00.  As a result, free books are listed as sales.

Which is why I’m a best-selling author.  I gave away enough short stories that The Eye of The Universe shot almost to the top of their charts for a brief period of time. I don’t feel like a best-selling author and I don’t have the income to show for it.  But I can legitimately claim to be one, and I will, laughing all the time.

The Numbers Game

Mark Coker is one of my favorite writers.  No, he doesn’t write fiction.  Or, as far as I know, anything with a truly creative flair.  What he does do is explain numbers without trying to skew them.  And that’s a rare thing.

Actually that’s a huge thing, especially considering that he’s the founder of Smashwords, possibly the largest self-publishing venue out there.  If not the largest, it’s close to it.  A writer can download Mark’s free book on formatting for Smashwords, then follow the directions and, in an hour or so, have a book published for free that can be sold on any venue Smashwords has a contract with. And that’s a whole lot of publishers.

I’m sure that Mark Coker makes a decent living through Smashwords.  But, in his many narratives about Smashwords and e-publishing in general, he doesn’t skew the numbers to make it look like a writer will sell more books than is realistic. And that’s huge because honesty could cost Mark Coker income by making potential authors choose not to publish through Smashwords.

It would be easy to skew the numbers without being dishonest.  All that’s necessary is to post averages.  Since there are a few very, very high-selling authors out there who pull the number of sales and the resulting sales figures way up, if you only post the averages, selling books online looks way more lucrative than it actually is.

I suspect Mark Coker isn’t worried.  I suspect he knows something intrinsic about writers.  He could probably throw negative numbers at everyone and shout to the rooftops that e-publishing isn’t profitable for most writers.  And those writers would publish anyway.  Because writers are optimists.

So read anything Mark Coker has to say on the subject if you want the truth.  Then go out there and publish your work anyway.  Because maybe you’ll become part of that small, select group of best-selling authors who do very well financially.

Writer/Procrastinator

Last post, I said I was ready to start marketing Wolf Legend, my next contemporary romance novel with a supernatural theme.  Maybe the truth should be that I’m almost ready to start marketing Wolf Legend.

I’ve still got to do one more run-through for editing, typos, etc.  Most of all, I must justify the margins. When I first started e-publishing, I tried writing first drafts with justified margins so I wouldn’t have to go back and do it later.  It didn’t work. It drove me crazy.  All those letters jumping all over the place whenever I made a change.  (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, try it.  You’ll go blind very quickly.  Or insane.  Or both.)  And I changed at least a few things in every chapter.  Even if I was on rewrite number ten.

So I quit creating with justified margins and must go back and redo the entire book now that I’m finally, finally truly done with it. Actually I justified it twice already and then un-justified it so I could make changes without going blind.  But this time I’m sure I’m done.

Really sure.

Pretty sure.

Almost sure…

Okay, I’m a writer and that means I’m never done.  I just reach a point in the creative process where I send it off whether I’m satisfied or not.  My husband often threatens to tear my latest manuscript from my clutching, ink-stained fingers because that’s the only way it’ll ever go out into the world.

The Romance Genre… Or Not

I’m finally… finally… finally… ready to start marketing the second book of my Legend trilogy, Wolf Legend, about a psychic wolf.  Actually two psychic wolves, mother and daughter and the woman they share a mind link with.

Marketing requires that I choose a category for my book.  I hate doing that.  Hate, hate, hate it!!!

Wolf Legend is a supernatural, contemporary, clean romance.  Though a supernatural element is fairly common in contemporary fiction, clean romances don’t often have that theme.  So maybe Wolf Legend shouldn’t be marketed as a supernatural, contemporary, clean romance after all.  Maybe it’s contemporary fiction with a supernatural theme and a romantic sub-plot!  Since readers ultimately categorize books, it’s difficult to know ahead of time where they will place it.

I wish I had a mind link with my readers!

Bloody Jack by L. A. Meyer

Product Detailshttp://www.Amazon.com/dp/B003K16PPU

Review:  Bloody Jack by L. A. Meyer

This the first of a series of really fun reads that I read because it was recommended.  Word of mouth is always the best advertisement and this time was no exception.

Mary Faber is a street urchin in old London who knows how to read.  She disguises herself as a boy, takes the name Jacky, and gets a job as ship’s boy on a merchant sailing ship.  She carries off the disguise and learns how to sail and eventually earns the respect of the ship’s crew when they are attacked by pirates.  After the fight, she’s nicknamed Bloody Jacky.  From there, the story gets wonky in a good way.  She ends up sailing through the sky across the ocean on a tree limb, fights the pirates a second time, and is rescued by her shipmates after they discover she’s a girl.  The end of the story is her arrival at a girl’s school, complements of her share of the pirates’ loot and the captain’s wishes.

I think the best way to describe this book is to say that it’s rollicking good fun.  The best thing about it is that it’s the first of a series so I can continue to follow Jacky’s story as she changes from a street urchin to a lady to, or so I’ve been told, a ship’s captain. I look forward to those books.

Of course it’s well edited and lacking the typos, etc,of some self-published books, being published by Harcourt, Inc.

Snowed by Pamela Burford

Snowed   http://www.amazon.com/dp/B003VYC776

Review:  Snowed by Pamela Burford

Judging from the original publication date for this book, I’m guessing that it’s from Ms Burford’s backlist.  It reads like a backlist book.  I liked it but there were things about it suggestive of a writer who hasn’t hit her full stride yet.

It’s the story of a poor Arkansas girl who is the product of rape who makes good and goes to New York City to confront her father.  He has died but his son is sexy and nice and she falls for him.  The rest of the story follows the various twists and turns during which they figure out that they aren’t blood relatives after all so it’s all right for them to fall in love and marry.

I thought the twists and turns were a bit clumsy, and that’s what I meant by being suggestive of a newbie writer, but they worked and, to be honest, Ms. Burford did manage a plot that most writers wouldn’t even tackle, let alone do so successfully.  And I loved the characters.  Loved them.  Ms. Burford’s characters jump from the page. I especially loved the ‘don’t-call-me-a-southern-hillbilly-one-more-time-or-I’ll-belt-you’ heroine as she makes her way through the big city.

It was well edited and I didn’t notice any typos.  Yeah!!!  This was free, the second of two free books I downloaded recently.  I’m glad I did and, after reading excerpts of Ms. Burford’s newer books, I just might buy one or two.

How to Date an Alien by Magan Vernon

Product DetailsReview:  How to Date an Alien by Magan Vernon

I like science fiction if a romance is in there somewhere and I like an occasional young adult book so I took a chance on this story.  I’m glad I did.  There’s nothing particular to place it higher than a number of other similar books but I liked the characters, I like the premise and I liked the conclusion.  My only negative is the same thing I find lacking in many books and that’s the fact that it’s part of a series so the story isn’t completely told in this one book.  I like beginnings, middles, and endings.  Still, this book qualified more than most.  It was complete in itself and I’d not have known that there was more if the author hadn’t shown previews of future books.  So I guess that’s not a negative after all.

It’s the story of a service brat whose parents divorced so she doesn’t see her dad all that much.  But when she needs a summer internship to make her college application look good she turns to good old dad and asks if she can intern wherever he works because, though she doesn’t know a lot about his job she does know it’s secret so it must be the stuff colleges like to see on applications.

Her dad agrees and she discovers he works with aliens at a secret base in the southwestern desert.  More importantly, she falls for one of the aliens and that’s frowned upon.  The fact that the alien is a prince and his  mother doesn’t like the romance any more than base personnel do makes it even worse.  But they persist and become a couple.

It’s a fun read.  Lots of action, the right amount of smooching and friends who are both supportive and those who are not.  Mostly, though, is the action.  Like I said, it’s a fun read.  I give it 3 stars, maybe 4.

Second Draft

I read somewhere that most novels go through ten re-writes before being published.  When I read that statistic, I almost quit writing for a more lucrative field, like greeting people at Walmart.

Ten re-writes?  Really?  I still think that’s a bit extreme but that number worked its way around my psyche until I figured something out.  If a story might be re-written ten times, more or less, why not use that fact to my advantage?  So I tried something and I’ve been doing it ever since.

I write the story.  The story.  Not the characters, not the background.  Just the story.  Only when I’m done do I consider what kind of story I’m writing.  Romance?  Mystery?  Thriller?  Mainstream?  After remembering what kind of story I started out to write, I re-read the whole thing and insert what’s needed to make it become the kind of story it should be.

If it’s a romance, then every so often I’ll insert a sentence or two to add a bit of romantic interest.  Occasionally that sentence or two becomes a whole new scene.  Sometimes not.  Whatever the result, those re-written sentences add a subtle something that reminds the reader that this is not just a story, it’s a particular kind of story. This becomes especially true if what you are adding doesn’t contribute to the flow of the story.  Sex scenes.  Car chases. Descriptions without action. Soliloquies.  Background information.

I’ve since learned that many writers do this.  And here I thought I was unique!  I’m not, I’m just one of many writers who learned how to write by writing.

The only caveat to doing this is to not let it take over the book.  Remember that you’re fleshing out a situation, not stopping the action completely.  Usually a sentence or two will do the trick.  If you find you are writing an entire scene, then go back later and make sure you didn’t add too much.

And guess what?  Reading the story that third time to make sure your re-writes were appropriate becomes re-write number three.  And so on, until you stop because if you read it one more time you’ll puke.  And you realize that you’ve gone through the whole thing more times than you’d have thought possible when you put that first sentence on the page and ten re-writes begins to look almost normal.

Fated by Carolyn McCray

Review of Fated by Carolyn McCray

(Sorry about the picture copied from Amazon.  I wanted to show the cover and am still working on the technical details of how to get just the cover and a buy link up.)

I must admit that I didn’t read every word.  This doesn’t mean it was too long or wordy, it just means that I often skip parts of books when I become more interested in the story line than the depth of the characters.  I liked the story because I find the period of history it is set in to be rather intriguing.

It takes place in the era when Caesar ruled Rome and Brutus was a part of the patrician elite.  It follows the love affair of Brutus and one of his slaves, Torvus.  The two were drawn to each other and fated to meet but after that they were held apart by convention and politics.  Carolyn McCray tries to be historically accurate so what happens in the novel is dictated by what happened in reality. Okay, she doesn’t succeed in that historical accuracy but she’s in the ball park and, for a fictional novel, that’s close enough for me.

I’m a former history major so that may explain why I got caught up in the story line.  Reading this book took me back to a childhood in which I learned a huge amount of history by reading the historical romances that were so popular back then.  (And, yes, I’m dating myself.)  Novels such as this were a large part of why I became that history major.  Some of that history I read while young turned out to be very inaccurate but it piqued an interest in long ago events.  The consequences of those events still resonate today because history matters and any book that encourages kids to study history deserves a big plus.  I’m glad to see someone writing today who is hopefully having the same effect on young readers as those earlier novels had on me.