Writing Process Blog Tour

Yesterday, author Robert Mullin kindly tagged me in a blog tour going by the name of The Writing Process. I got to know him over Facebook, and he has become a close friend of mine. A writer and adventurer, he is the author of Bid the Gods Arise, an excellent novel that deftly blends science fiction and fantasy. I haven’t finished it yet, but I’m very enthusiastic to read more of his work.

So, here are the tour’s questions:

What am I working on?

My writing projects are currently twofold.

One, of course, is The Wolfglen Legacy, the epic fantasy series I’ve been working on for the better part of a decade. I’ve pitched it, edited it, had friends read parts of it…but then I realized it hadn’t matured quite enough. I need to finally write books 2, 3, and 4 (pieces of each do exist already), so I’ll see if I can finish the first book by summer this year.

My second project is the serialized science fiction thriller Arrivers. The first three installments are on Amazon Kindle for a buck each, and a fourth entry is underway. I’d love to see where this story goes and get a chance to spend more time with Sergeant Tobias, Reverend Rousseau, and the strange woman who calls herself Jezebel.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Apart from games like World of Warcraft and Dungeons and Dragons, I don’t know of any epic fantasy that includes dinosaurs. Or elves who wield flintlock pistols, and treat them with the same deep honor and reverence as Samurai treat the katana. Or a villain who appoints himself as rescuer of mankind, who feels going to war is a necessary step to rescuing us from our own flaws and mistakes.

More than that, however, many new fantasy novels wade in moral ambiguity, Game of Thrones style. It makes for frustrating tales that don’t really celebrate or condemn anything. I want to tell stories that have moral complexity. There’s still a difference between right and wrong, even if they can tie knots around each other.

When it came to the Arrivers stories, I grew weary from seeing one science fiction story after another that was overtly materialistic. You know, the stories told by the likes of Ben Bova and Isaac Asimov, that go out of their way to say religious people are morons, science eradicates miracles, and God no longer has a place in the cosmos. So I wanted to write a science fiction story that wasn’t “religious,” but still admitted there’s more to the universe than particles and natural laws.

Why do I write what I do?

If someone tells me I take my writing too seriously, I’ll take it as a complement. 🙂 My goal is to make someone feel like they are peeking through an interdimensional portal, witnessing events in a universe just as real as ours. Neither characters, nor story, nor world will be ready until it seems they’re entirely real. It’s not quite enough for me to try telling “a good story.” That’s the house’s foundation, so to speak.

How does my writing process work?

A few things help the writing process. Coffee with hazelnut creamer, concept art from movies, reading other novels, peace and quiet, and successfully resisting the siren call of Facebook. Still working on that last one….

I’ll often start with an idea and a paragraph or two, and build it up from there. Normally half of my edits happen as I’m writing the “first draft”. Supposedly this is a big no-no for writers, but it’s ended up helping me more and more with my own work.

Tagging Other Authors

For passing along this blog tour, I’d like to tag “Zombie Rob” Killam, another close friend of mine with an incredible talent for humor and witty dialogue. His upcoming zombie novel is called Apocalypse Springs.

The second writer I wanted to tag is my friend Joe Dorris, starring on the show Prospectors on the Weather Channel and fellow novelist who just released Salmon River Kid. He even paints his own cover art! How cool is that?

And here’s a third: mother, duchess and epic sci-fi author Ashley Hodges Bazer. I’m grinning at the prospect of reading her tales that encompass many worlds and have the kind of big-scale stories that deserve a movie or TV series. Here’s to much success, Ashley!

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“Salt Flats” is Out! (Plus In-Progress Painting)

Hey, everyone! Sorry I have been gone for a while. But I have good news. The third story in my serialized science fiction tales, “Salt Flats,” is now on Kindle! Today through Wednesday, the first two installments, “Escaping” and “Refugee,” are free, and the new one is just $0.99. It took a while to write this one (it’s slightly longer than the first two combined), but I did love writing it, and mean to keep the series going.

The synopsis:

The battlecraft Aphrodite has crash-landed six miles from the city of Elm’s Corner, the one refuge its survivors can take from an Arriver attack. Isolated from the crew, Sergeant Tobias Carter is left with a choice: run or fight. He and Reverend Rousseau have never met an enemy so fierce. And something about the Aphrodite has attracted the attention of more than just the Arrivers….

If this sounds like your cup of sci-fi tea, three stories for the total price of a buck is a good deal. And whatever you think — good, bad, whatever — feel free to write a quick review on Amazon or Goodreads. Reviews, of course, really help.

On another note, I have gotten more painting done, including my first foray onto a large canvas. It’s just beginning, but here’s what I have so far:

Snow goes on next, then I'm putting a city in the valley.

Snow goes on next, then I’m putting a city in the valley.

I hope you all have an awesome Thanksgiving, and get plenty of time with your loved ones. Catch you all later, and thanks for dropping by!

A Plea for Reason in Sci-Fi/Fantasy “Discrimination”

Edit: November 2, 2013: Don’t like what’s said on this post? Fine by me. But if you choose to mistake maturity for being “oblivious,” then there’s not much I can do to help you. I could go off on another rant, but I’ll defer to Brad Stine on this one.

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Lately I’ve been seeing quite a few accusations of discrimination being flung around the sci-fi/fantasy community. Mainly, it focuses on the fact that many of the writers are white males portraying white male protagonists.

Sorry, what? I must have forgotten to change my race and/or gender before I embarked on writing sci-fi and fantasy. My bad.

Forget about telling me that my “white privilege” is showing or I’m “mansplaining” things to you. I’m addressing you all as human beings, created as equals in the image of God — no more and no less. Look, can everyone quit the mud-slinging for five minutes and just admit this for what it is? If sci-fi and fantasy have somehow been overwhelmed by white, male protagonists/authors (and to a certain extent, that is true), that doesn’t mean it’s racist or sexist. It’s just boring. Well, it’s boring if skin color and gender of the protagonist(s) are a huge deal and determine the quality of a story.

I’m not arguing to keep things the way they are. By all means, let’s start increasing the variety of characters. But it’s nowhere near as important as crafting a good story and fascinating characters to drive it. Aren’t those the basics?

Honestly, I don’t care what the author or character’s race or sex is. I just want the story and the people it’s about to be interesting. In my experience, the only people who have cared a great deal about things the author and character cannot help, like their melanin content or chromosomes, belong to one of two types:

  • Those not-too-common actual racists or sexists — immature people who try to ruin others’ experience with science fiction and fantasy by belittling their race or gender (though I have hardly met any of them)
  • Equally immature people with notes from their classes in race studies or gender studies constantly on the brain, worrying about different types of humans and whether they are “represented” equally among authors or characters, and who think an under-representation of any group is a miscarriage of justice that MUST be addressed (I have met plenty of these, and would rather hope to not run into them again)

Last time I checked, writing classes and books didn’t have much to say on the subject of race or even gender, though that could easily change in the Age of Political Correctness. I don’t care one bit that Avatar: The Last Airbender or The Legend of Korra hardly have any “white” characters. I don’t care that Korra is a girl. I love both series, because the characters are well-developed, and the stories are amazing. And the fight scenes are mind-bogglingly awesome. That too.

But I also don’t care that many of the other stories I love, from Star Wars to Lord of the Rings to Jurassic Park, happen to have a lot of white, male characters driving the story. Because those are exactly the traits of human beings no one should be making a big deal about. What was that Martin Luther King, Jr. said, about people being judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin (or the arrangement of their chromosomes, for that matter)?

Female protagonists are supposed to have strength of one kind or another and be proactive, not because they’re female, but because they’re the protagonists. That’s why. There’s nothing in the chief character’s sex that robs him/her of the need to be decisive and proactive. No one except for the aforementioned groups is going to care how light or dark an author’s or character’s skin is. Most of us just want a great story, featuring interesting people and created by someone who knows what they’re doing.

Now can we please get back to having fun, writing the best fiction we can and sharing it with the world? Thanks for your time.

I Have Another Story Out!

“Refugee,” the sequel to my sci-fi story “Escaping,” is officially out! 🙂 Hope you enjoy it! It’s 99 cents now, and much longer than the first entry. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00D49LERC

Tobias Carter and Reverend Rousseau find a woman stealing medical supplies from their doomed warship. Should they trust her claim that she’s trying to help them, or is she part of a larger threat to them and the rest of the crew?

“Escaping” is still free through Saturday, so I’ll post the link here as well: http://www.amazon.com/Escaping-A-Short-Story-ebook/dp/B00BRRUWMG

I think these tales are swiftly growing into a serialized adventure. With luck I can start offering more tales like this.

Thanks for your time, everyone!

I’m #1 in Kindle’s Space Marine Sci-Fi!

Wow, I have been absent for so long. So busy. But I did want to deliver some terrific news to you.

My short science fiction story “Escaping” is available on Kindle, and FREE through Saturday. Yup. Free.

The sequel “Refugee” will be released tomorrow, at long last. And I’ll keep publishing short stories as much as possible, while also working on The Wolfglen Legacy.

Oh, and even better news: I just watched “Escaping” hit the number one spot on “Space Marine” Science Fiction! The free list, that is. But it’s still a real victory. I believe this calls for an official declaration of “Boo-yah!”

Feel free to check it out, right here on Amazon. Here’s the pitch: “Fleeing invasion on a damaged warship, a soldier and a reverend face the question of whether someone is watching out for them.”

My First Kindle Story!

Well, it’s finally happened. I got a short story published on Kindle! Boo-yah!

“Escaping” — Science Fiction

Fleeing invasion on a damaged warship, a soldier and a reverend face the question of whether someone is watching out for them.

For a measly $0.99, it can be yours! Click the picture to take a look. (And if you read it, feel free to post a review!)

This cover art is temporary. I'll find something better from a willing artist and post it as soon as possible.

This cover art is temporary. I’ll find something better from a willing artist and post it as soon as possible.

It’s a science fiction tale I’ve had in the archives for a while, and decided to finish it and put it out there for the world to see. It’s only about 2,000 words long, but I will add other stories to my Kindle library in short order. In the meantime, I hope you’ll enjoy this first entry.

Thanks for your time!

A Bumper Crop of Author Promotions

Putting that Kindle story on hold for a moment, to share something much more important with you, dear reader.

The more I’ve gotten into the writing scene, the more amazing authors I have encountered. They are gifted with stories to stir the emotions — inspiration, humor, terror, tragedy, wonder, love, delight, and a thousand others. Imaginings are their pigments, the mind their canvas, and they work in miracles.

And now it’s time for me to introduce you to some of them. I’ll be glad to introduce more of them later. Most of the ones I’m going to mention here are attending my weekly writing workshop, but I’ll work in a couple of others I’ve had the privilege of meeting.

Please do check them out. We authors need all the help we can get.

First, my good friend and writer of character-driven zombie fiction, Rob Killam. His upcoming Apocalypse Springs novel has survivors who have to slay their own personal demons as well as the ghouls banging down their door. It’s got more heart and brains (heehee) than any other zombie-related work I’ve yet seen. You’d be doing yourself a favor in checking him out.

Next, Jason P. Henry has a funny way with words. A very funny way, and twisted in the best possible sense. Plus he sets up tension like nobody’s business when he decides to get serious.

Ashley Bazer is proof that it’s possible to be a stay-at-home mom and a novelist at the same time. Her science fiction novel Asylum: The Circeae Tales came out just last year, and though I haven’t yet read it, I’m impressed with the quality on display at the writer’s workshop we attend. Did I mention she’s a duchess?

Jackie Hames offers a ton of sound and friendly writing advice, and we’ve had a lot of productive discussions. Plus her defense of speculative fiction is worth some serious thought, and I’m quite enthusiastic to read her upcoming fiction projects.

Genuine rocket scientist and modern renaissance man Grant McKenzie applies extensive knowledge and forethought into each piece he writes. He’s working on historical fiction and a YA fantasy novel, plus he’s one of the few people I know who can create a good rhyming poem in ten minutes or less, and he has a great deal of thought to offer on how the relationships between characters can enrich your work.

A.W. Hartoin is getting quite popular these days, as a writer of mysteries and fairy fantasy who just got her first audiobook! She excels at getting readers invested in a character, and I look forward to reading more of her work.

Last but not least, Angel Smits has published five books, most of which are more of the romantic variety, including a couple of Harlequin Romances. She’s got a knack for good characterization and immersing the reader in a protagonist’s thoughts. Highly recommended.

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Quite aside from that, I have gotten an author’s page on Facebook that I confess I’m pretty happy with. At the risk of sounding self-congratulatory, check it out if you “Like.”

Ooh, and though I have encountered a couple of delays in getting my first Kindle story published, I’m still going to release it, and you’ll all be the first to know. Thanks for your time, everyone!