Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Hey, Fairy Tale, I Know Your Type

Back in university, when I took a class on folk tales, our chief text was a a shelf-length set of books in the undergrad library that comprised the Aarne-Thompson Tale Type Index. Those original two guys, Aarne and Thompson, sorted through scads of European and Near Eastern folk tales, and later on some dude named Uther (for you Arthurian aficionados, yes, that's really his name! ) added stories from a few other languages and cultures.

(Aside: I still suspect the collection is super limited because it does not include East Asian, African, or Native American tales. However, I haven't studied the Uther update, so maybe he added some?)

Anyhow, these folklorist guys broke down tales into their elements -- princess in a tower, supernatural helper, persecuted heroine -- and assigned numbers to each type. Then they noted which type-numbers tend to occur most frequently together. For instance, the Cinderella story contains both the persecuted heroine and the supernatural helper. 

At one point, I thought about writing a story based on the categorization system itself -- super meta! But then I read Seanan Maguire's Indexing and thought, well, somebody did that and did it well.   

I also always wanted to write an ATU type 410: a sleeping princess, but, you know, with some kind of twist. Like, she's in space or the coffin is really a Winnebago or something similar. Then I read... well, lots of Sleeping Beauty riffs: Veronica Scott's excellent (and in space!) Trapped on Talonque, David Eddings's Elenium trilogy, a gorgeous unpublished romance by Alison Williams, Anne Rice's erotica series. I started to feel like, well, this has been done, so I put my dimension-hopping, time-pausing, intergalactic queen on ice.

But you know what? There might be a reason why these tale types are done over and over, why they transcend culture and language, and people discuss them in a meta way in universities and academic what-ifferies. So maybe I could have another go at type 410 and no one would mind. We'll see. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

It's Not A Happy Fairy Tale When Your Shadow Wants You Dead

If I were inclined to rewrite a fairy tale, which would it be and why?

Yea though one might think me a Grimmlet, I'm more partial to Hans Christian Andersen's darker fairy tales. The Little Match Girl will forever break my heart, but it's not the one I'd retell. No, I'd pick:

Nope, not referring to Lamont Cranston, though "what evil lurks in the hearts of men" is definitely a shared theme. The Shadow by HCA is a story of a "learned man" whose cowardice and curiosity about a beautiful woman he espies briefly in the neighboring apartment leads to the divorce from his shadow. It's pertinent that this rending of man and reflection happens in the "hot countries" where "people become as brown as mahogany all over." (Yes, this "learned man" is from the "cold countries.")  There's so much to be read into that culturally, plus the wending of seemingly diverse mythologies...

Anywhoo, dude returns to the cold countries without his esteemed shadow. Years pass. He grows a new shadow...and then his old one returns --arguably corporeal, wealthy, healthy, and in sartorial splendor. The two have a gentlemanly chat about what happened that fateful night. On the surface, the conversation pleasant, yet the shadow is a bit like "that" friend, you know, the one who goes to exotic places, meets exciting people, then rushes home to rub your nose in it? Yeah. The Shadow departs and returns over the years, each conversation adopting a more sinister tone. Oh, and the shadow has a hang-up about using the word "thou," it insists on the word "you." (Again, relevant, your honor.)

What the shadow really wants is for the learned man to travel with him, all expenses paid; the learned man has only to give up a bit of his dignity to have the time of his life. The natural refusal and cajole happens with each visit until the learned man--aging and in ill health--finally agrees. Shit unravels in a dastardly manner from there as the shadow convinces those around them that he is the man and the learned man is his shadow. The learned man is passive throughout--from the beginning to the end of the story--which ends with the shadow marrying a princess and the princess executing the learned man.

There are ALL KINDS of stuff to unpack from this story and spin out into a larger paranormal world, possibly modern, probably LGBTQ+, and...~shhh~

Should I pen this retelling of a fairy tale? Only The Shadow knows. 

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Retelling the Fairy Tale

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is which fairy tale would you pick to rewrite and why?

It's kind of a funny question for me, because it's starting to be more accurate to ask me which fairy tale I *haven't* rewritten yet.

So far I've done retellings of Beauty & the Beast (PETALS AND THORNS) and The Goose Girl (HEART'S BLOOD).

Then there are all the books that incorporate fairy tale themes without being direct retellings. For example, the original Twelve Kingdoms trilogy began with the idea of the three princesses, daughters of the High King, each more beautiful than the last. All of the books in that trilogy and the Uncharted Realms and Chronicles of Dasnaria spinoff series play with various fairy tale themes. My first fantasy romance series, A Covenant of Thorns, also plays on fairy tale themes, that time about a person being transported to Faerie.

 As for the ones I still want to do... two have been on my list for a long time: Rapunzel and Cinderella. I have ideas for Rapunzel, but nothing yet that really gets to the feel I want. Cinderella poses its own challenges, but... I think I may have it now. :D

Saturday, July 13, 2019

The Unwritten Projects Are (Briefly) in the Spotlight


This week’s theme: Name three writing projects we've been planning to work on for a long while and haven't yet touched.

First would be the second book in my Magic of Claddare series. I definitely have sequels planned and even have the cover for book 2, The Shifter’s Witch, but fantasy romance isn’t my main genre and so I keep bypassing this one to work on science fiction romance novels, which is where my readers are to be found for the most part. In the meantime, I have all kinds of other plots in mind to set in this world. Time is always my issue!

Second would be the sequel to Dancer of the Nile. I
have the plot in my head and a cover already purchased but in this case other ancient Egyptian plots have been shinier and I’ve written them instead of continuing the story of Nima the dancer and her noble Egyptian general. I feel like I might be sneaking up on this one though and might even slot it into my writing schedule for this year. We’ll see.

Third would be the sequel to Escape from Zulaire, which readers do keep asking for. I have a plot – or as much of a plot as I ever have prior to sitting down and writing a book. I usually know the beginning, the ending and a few major scenes in between, and of course who the hero and heroine are. In this case it’ll be Mitch the sergeant who gets his own story. And surprise, surprise, I don’t have a cover already bought for this one! Which is probably a good indicator of how far off I am from deciding to write the book.

If we’re supposed to discuss entirely new projects, unconnected to previous books or specific series…this week’s topic caused me to remember a proposal I’d sent to Carina Press in 2013 when they and I were exploring what else I might write for them since they were no longer doing Ancient World (at that time. For all I know, they’ve since gone back to that genre. Things change in Romancelandia!). I dug through my old files and found the document – here were some of my suggestions to them for a new series from me:

Chloe, Allie and Maureen are modern day descendants of the Three Fates from Greek mythology….
(Apparently I’d even found a way to work a Navy SEAL into the plot somewhere…hmmm.)

Rosalie Drake is an aspiring young actress with a classical theater background and one commercial to her name, who supports herself with temping…
(I remember now part of my inspiration for this was an actress who worked for me at NASA/JPL as a temporary secretary off and on for a couple of years. It was always so cool when she’d go off to be in a movie for a few days and then return to us…eventually she dropped out of sight…)

Taryn has been out of college for over a year, unable to find a good job with her newly minted Liberal Arts degree, living at home.  Her older sister is a Head Keeper at the Zoo of Hollywood and gets Taryn hired as assistant publicist…
(I’d probably just paid my LA Zoo membership that week and felt inspired…)

Interestingly to me now, #2 and #3 were apparently envisioned as straight forward contemporary romances, which is so not what I actually write. I probably would have put a scifi or paranormal twist on the actual books when I sat down to write them…thank you, Carina Press for not biting on any of them! 

I think I’m much happier the way the world turned out, with me going on to a full time career writing scifi romance and self-publishing, and continuing to write my ancient Egyptian paranormal romances and self-publishing those. I learned a lot from Carina and my wonderful editors there, but I really prefer to run my own author business and set my own deadlines as it all turns out.

Friday, July 12, 2019

The Dream List

Y'all, I just turned in The Book I Thought I'd Never Finish. Does that one count? No? Okay. Projects I want to work on:

1. For a decade I wanted to finish the arc of the SFR series I started in 2010. Now, thanks to The Wild Rose Press, I get to do that. We'll see whether it was worth the wait. At this point, there are only two books left to write - one for Colonel Kirthin Turrel and one for Her Majesty Queen Eilod Saoyrse. That's about all I can say about those books at this point.
2.  There are a couple of hot novellas that happen in the same story universe as the SFR novels. I have two of those stories at least half done. Now I want them finished. The sexy shorts are a lot of fun. I find them to be great palate cleansers after the bigger novels. But these guys don't have a contract. The novels do. So these two take a number and stand in line.
3. There's a little piece of weird sitting on my hard drive called The Curse of the Lorelei - It's spy versus spy during an oddly haunted Civil War. It's meant to be a slow burn romance that takes a couple of books to pay off. I have the first book done, but it needs a little finessing before it sees the light of day. But. Contract for other books, right? Again. This book takes a number and stands in line.

All of this is predicated on the notion that I never again have an idea that grabs me by the throat and threatens me into writing it.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Off the back burner and into the story oven

I'm super nosy, so I'm always asking folks what they're working on. I'm sure it's super annoying. How fortuitous, though, that this week our SFF Seven topic is "three stories I might have abandoned but would like to work on someday," which is pretty much permission to be as annoyingly nosy as possible, right!? Bliss for Miss Nosypants! So naturally I thought of Chandra Ryan, a writer who used to pen some of the awesomest sci-fi romance around, dropped out of the biz for a while because life, and has just started re-releasing old stuff and starting a brand new series about space dragon shifters (Golden: see pretty cover). She was kind enough to answer my questions, as follows:


As an author, I’ve found that one of the most frequently asked questions I get is, “How do you come up with your ideas?” Which is a great question with, unfortunately, a decidedly boring answer, “They just come to me.” Granted, sometimes I hear a song that makes me experience an emotion and I decide I have to write something to capture that emotion (Bond Betrayed), sometimes I’m working through issues I have within my own life and I use the writing process in lieu of therapy (Ink in the Blood), or sometimes we’ve just had a horrible, horrible election that makes me so mad I want to throw a temper tantrum and break things (Golden) but most of the time an idea or character just pops into my head and I run with it.

A question I’ve never been asked, however, is, “What ideas have you had that you haven’t written yet?” At least, that was true until last week when a great friend and amazing author, Vivien Jackson, reached out to me about writing this blog. One simple question had me going through my mental notes. It really got the creative juices going and got me excited about some projects I’d put on the very, very back burner. So thank you!!

So which projects have I been dragging my feet on?

The easiest answer for me to come up with, the one that immediately popped into my head, was the third book in my Community series. I don’t even have a title for it. And that series has been out for, well, forever. Ink in the Blood, the first book in the series, was the first book I ever had published. It was the book that started it all. And I’ve known what the next book in the series should be for years. Isaac’s sister needs to have her story told. She was betrayed, kidnapped, and held hostage in Bond Betrayed, for Pete’s sake. If anybody deserves a happy ending, it’s her. I just haven’t been able to sit down and tell it, however.

The second project I thought of was a retelling of Rapunzel I’d dreamed up about two or three years ago. Only, instead of it being a fantasy setting, it would take place in space. Because everything is better in space. Stay with me here. So Rapunzel is the crown princess of a planet. This planet sees hair length as a social status. The longer your hair is, the more prestige a person has. Being crown princess, Rapunzel has the longest hair. Her tower is a metaphorical one. The walls she’s had to build around herself because she is royalty.

The third project was a horror romance where the heroine buys a book at a second hand store that is cursed. I don’t remember much about the plot, though. It was shortly after my mom gave me our family Bible. Which was weird because I’m not terribly religious, but my sister is. So I asked her why she gave the Bible to me and not my sister. As you’ve probably guessed by now, she said, “Your sister thinks it’s cursed because your father bought it.” So she gave it to me instead. Ummm… Thanks?

So there they are. Three of my projects that I hope to get written someday but haven’t as of yet!! Huge thank yous to The SFF Seven for having me on their blog today and thank you to everybody who stopped by.

If you wanted to check out all the things I’ve actually completed, feel free to stop by my website: 

And to find out about all the things I’m in the process of completing, come hang out with me in my reader’s group: Chandra's Clubhouse

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

My next projects and some sexy aliens

As Tom Petty said, the future is wide open, and I'm a rebel without a clue.

Yesterday, the final book in my cyberpunk romance series was released, and now I'm free to work on anything I want to. Woohoo! Which of course has had be going back through my "In Process" folder and perusing stories in various states of dishabille. People, there are SO MANY stories in this folder. So. Many. But because you don't want to be reading this blog post for the rest of your day/week/life, I'll pick just three to sum up:

1. Twenty years after they allied heroically to defeat the necromancer, all the kings of Eyath are... gone. Disappeared. Missing. Dead? It falls to the next generation, led by a princess who should not exist and a tree who cannot die, to uncover what happened, repair the damage to their land, and confront the sins that led them all to this doom. (I've never pitched this one, so I don't have a back-cover-copy write-up of the story. This little bit will have to do.)

2. (Did pitch this one -- it didn't pass committee -- so here's the extended version.) Metallurgist Gal Gutierrez takes a job to examine and retrieve samples of a material that even the archaeological dig lead won’t touch. But Gal has no such qualms. She’ll touch it, bag it, bring it to her lab, and science the shit out of it.

Until she gets to the site and, uh, meets it.

Ashim, the Destroyer of Worlds, is a prisoner on this backwater planet Earth, strapped to it by a radiation barrier that protects all these pre-evolved life forms from the dangers of space. And keeps him from anything like stretching. He hasn’t flexed his power in ten thousand revolutions of this ball of iron and tedium, and lo, it begins to wear upon him. He’s paid for his crimes, and his sentence is drawing to a close. There’s just one thing he has left to do: blow this place and get out.

But when the human woman steps into his cavern, touches him, speaks to him, all his plans are whatever and he can think of nothing other than touching her right back. Sifting the aura that surrounds her. Listening to her delicious voice and inhaling her intoxicating scent. No matter that those physical things would require him to reduce himself to human form.

O, Great Bang, he is lost.

3. My riff off of Guardians of the Galaxy wherein a secret prince busts out of an orbital prison with help from a tech-smart but whiny teenage rebel, a double-crossing security guard, and whatever Olorin is (a science experiment? a cosmic god?). Anyhow, they steal the exact ship they oughtn't, meet a quantum-entangled chinchilla, and hie across the galaxy with all the law on their tails to save Davon's mom, the queen, from an alien threat that wants to kill her and the planet she rode in on. Good times.

As I mentioned, there are others, but these have the most words done, and I should probably finish them. Now that I've done the self-publishing thing once, I'm less worried about what my agent will find sellable, which frees me up to write whatever crazysauce pops into my brain. And hoo-boy, there are some things.

So, hooray for next projects! I just got to pick one.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

#SciFi #Romance Release Day: MORE THAN STARDUST by Vivien Jackson

It's a celebration today as our Wednesday blogger Vivien releases the third book in her sexy Wanted and Wired Sci-Fi Romance series

Wanted and Wired, Book 3

Chloe, a self-aware, highly illegal nanorobotic artificial intelligence knows a thing or two about wanting.

The growing Machine Rebellion wants her to become its god.
The technocratic global Consortium wants to cage her, take her apart, and reverse-engineer her.
Her family wants to keep her a secret.
Her best friend Garrett wants her safe.

Chloe is a thing made of wants.
It's time the world knew hers.

BUY IT NOW: Amazon | B&NKobo

Sunday, July 7, 2019

The Island of Lost Book Projects

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is all about the things we want to do. We're asking everyone to name three projects we've been planning to work on for a long while and haven't yet touched.

It's kind of like the writer version of the Island of Lost Toys. Ever so sad.

Except that these kinds of lost projects still have hope of being rescued. I keep them in two subsections of my overall tracking workbook (in Excel spreadsheets!) called "Tabled" and "Potential." Really, the tabled projects don't count for this topic, as it specifies they must be untouched. The tabled projects are ones I at least started to write, then back-burnered for various reasons.

In the potential section, however, I have seven projects listed. One is a contemporary romance trilogy that I did start to write up a long time ago - relatively: six years ago - so technically it's a tabled project. Being a purist for these things, I moved it to that subsection.

That leaves four projects in there - one a more or less total surprise because I forgot I was ever going to do it. And really... I'm not going to. It's the third book in my Blood Currency series. See, the deal is, way back in the mists of time, I'd submitted PETALS AND THORNS to several publishers. Loose ID bought it and when I notified Ellora's Cave about the offer, they gave me a weird, disorganized answer. (In retrospect, this was a harbinger of their eventual implosion.) Later, the EC editor contacted me to buy it. I had to disappoint her, but she asked me to her write something else. That became FEEDING THE VAMPIRE. She asked for more and, because EC had this weird thing about there having to be three books in a series before they gave you a series title and something better than their one-size-fits-all reusable covers (and we wonder why they went out of business...), I pitched her a third idea for the series as well. I wrote book two, HUNTING THE SIREN, but by the time it came out the implosion had begun and I never wrote the third book. I don't even remember what the concept was, though I'm sure it's on my laptop somewhere. Anyway, I've bundled the first two books into one volume called BLOOD CURRENCY (the name of the series).

I really doubt I'll write more. Nobody has asked for more, so that says something!

Another project is taking one of my very first fiction stories, PEARL, and working it into a novel. I might still. I took down the story because it has a tragic ending and I figured that was off brand. But I'd love to have that tragic moment be a black moment prequel to a happier outcome. It could still happen.

The other two projects are kind of in the same bucket: anthologies I'd discussed doing with Megan Hart and that we kind of dropped for various reasons. One was an anthology of fairytale retellings and the other was an erotic anthology called SIN CAVE, a followup to THE DEVIL'S DOORBELL. Both titles are a play on misogynistic terms for female genitalia and pleasure. I'm kind of sorry we never got around to doing the followup of SIN CAVE, but I also think that if projects fall apart that way, it's for a reason. They don't have enough energy to carry them through. Also, with SIN CAVE, several of the authors in THE DEVIL'S DOORBELL are no longer writing. Maybe someday with a new cast?

I should caveat, too, for those of you with fingers poised to type outraged comments about the stories you're waiting for in my other worlds - this doesn't include those! Those are absolutely on the stove and simmering.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Visiting a Ship from My STAR CRUISE #SciFi Romance Novels


This week’s topic: What place in your own books do you most want to visit and why?

I had to ponder this one a bit because in my books it’s not really about the place, as it is about the planet or the ship…or ancient Egypt, sometimes.

Another cool spaceship from DepositPhoto
I’ll leave ancient Egypt for another post because I decided for today I’d choose my interstellar cruise liner of the far future, the Nebula Zephyr, which  has featured in a number of my science fiction romance novels. She’s run by an AI named Maeve, who’s a bit terrifying. She’s actually a military AI, who used to run a huge Sectors battleship and who would have been terminated when her ship was decommissioned except for Captain Fleming. He was the last captain of Maeve’s battleship and he managed to somehow have her transferred from that ship into the brand new luxury liner he was taking command of upon his own retirement. Maeve does a great job of running the luxury liner of course but remains military at heart and little glimpses of that attitude show through in some of the stories.

The CLC Line is run by veterans,  in part to provide good jobs for veterans, so they’re quite understanding of some of the things my captain and crew do in the course of the books. As Captain Fleming explains in Star Cruise: Stowaway, “I always had Special Forces Teams as key elements of my strategy when I commanded a battleship,” he said as he sat and stirred cinna spice into his drink. “When I agreed to join the CLC Line, I saw no reason not to have a similar capacity on board. As we’ve seen in recent years with the rise in space piracy and other challenges, even a civilian vessel may need a core of well-trained operators at some juncture. Jake Dilon is one of the finest Special Forces officers I ever met, and I back his decisions. Anything he and his team did for you was under my authority. I’m the man in command, and the responsibility is mine.”

 I always admired the Flying Tigers who came home from World War II and set up their own airline, so the CLC Line and its corporate policy was my little tribute to those pilots.

Maybe someday I’ll tell the story of Maeve and the captain, which readers frequently ask me for, but it’s not on my list of upcoming books.

I never really define what the Nebula Zephyr looks like from the exterior. Partly that’s so I can use whatever stock photos are available to me for the cover art and not upset anyone too much. I do have a detailed layout of the ship in a notebook that I refer to fairly often. Suffice it to say she’s a huge ship, with twenty decks or levels, which gives me a lot of room to have adventurous plots.

Below the bridge deck, Level A has the huge casino, the observatory (where Maeve can order up any galaxy or star system a passenger might wish to see), restaurants, shops, the theater where the Comettes dance troupe performs, a host of other amusements and entertainments for the passengers and a state of the art sickbay, presided over by Dr. Emily Shane, heroine of Star Cruise: Outbreak.

Nebula Zephyr carries cargo as well as passengers, with two entire levels devoted to the cargo hold, run by Cargo Master Owen Embersson, who took the lead in Star Cruise: Stowaway.  In this respect I adopted the Titanic era model, where the vessel was a luxury liner and a working cargo ship. Captain Fleming is very deferential to the Cargo Master, because transporting interstellar freight is a highly lucrative business and the CLC Line does expect its ships to turn a nice profit.

Level 5 is the beach, with the entire space given over to an ‘ocean’, with special water and sand brought from the resort planet Tahumaroa Two and elaborate holograms projected  by Maeve for the enjoyment of passengers and crew. It’s not a holodeck like the Star Trek concept, where all kinds of adventures can occur, but it’s a great site for parties, volleyball and late night strolls. My characters go there often. The water gets quite deep, there are waves and everyone seems to have a good time there. Mostly.

Movement between levels is via antigrav tubes, although there are some retro stairs for passengers with an aversion to antigrav.

As you might expect the Nebula Zephyr has a five star chef in charge of fine dining and all food operations. I always enjoy working Chef Stephanie and her kitchen into the plot – it gives me a chance to draw upon all those seasons of watching ‘Top Chef’!

There’s a lot more to the Nebula Zephyr (and new features come up regularly in the books) but I think I’d really enjoy my time aboard the ship, mingling with the other passengers, who range from the very rich in First Class -the ‘Generational Billionaires’ and ‘Socialites’ (also very rich but young, heedlessly arrogant and constantly pleasure seeking) to the solid  and sturdy Second Class of your more every day Sectors citizen. (There is no Third Class in the Sectors.) I’d devour Chef Stephanie’s gastronomic delights, take in a lot of shows, gamble at the Casino, get to know the members of the crew I write so much about…maybe even have a romance and HEA of my own with one of the ex-Special Forces Security Officers (Jake Dilon alas is spoken for, being married to Dr. Shane.)… I think I’d probably want to stay aboard forever, maybe as their Writer in Residence, which as yet the ship doesn’t have!

Friday, July 5, 2019

Book Vacation

I have two series and one stand alone book. The stand alone and the UF series are all set in Seattle. Okay. It's a Seattle that has demons and magic swarming the city, but still. I had picked Seattle specifically because I was living there and had long, deep affection for the place. Still do. So while I still love Seattle, if I could visit one of my book locations, it would absolutely be the SFR series I'd pick because SPACE.

I have so many questions and so many things I want to see with my own eyes. Let's be clear - I do not want to experience getting space sick. Don't. So I'm gonna go with being aboard one of the ships that has supplemental gravity. Then I want to go everywhere. I want to know if there's a palpable difference between how a ship navigates interstellar space and interplanetary space. This is where you realize I'm a sailor and I'm mistakenly comparing navigating vacuum to being tossed around on ocean waves. Intellectually, I get that time/space doesn't necessarily work that way, but it is the only frame of reference I have. THIS trip would fix my frame. 

Don't know what it says about me that I ache for an experience I'm not going to have in this life time. I mean, sure, it's theoretically possible that I could suddenly make the money that would buy my way to the International Space Station. But let's be realistic. With that kind of cash, there are a lot of other things I could do that wouldn't end up with me barfing my guts in zero g. Nopitynope. 

So I'll do my vacationing on paper, thanks. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

I want to vacation in Antarctica. No, really.

Here in Texas, it has already topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit this summer, and it's only gonna get hotter from here. You know that thing people say about frying an egg on the sidewalk, and then they laugh? Around here, it actually works. (I wouldn't recommend eating anything cooked out on the concrete. Probably tastes gritty. Tea brewed in the sun, however, is lovely.) It's also disgustingly humid right now. You'd need gills to breathe properly, and there's some kind of moist-loving fungus growing in my planter box, right next to the butterfly flowers. Gross, right?

So it should come as no surprise that I dream of getting away from all this oppressive heat. When I was writing my latest book, More Than Stardust, I needed a setting for a secret evil laboratory of villainy. The climate had to be good for electronics (so, cold and dry), and bonus if geopolitical territories and jurisdictions were a bit murky.

 Antarctica was the obvious choice.

I have to tell you, researching the geography and lore of the place was super fun. Conspiracy theories abound, I totally believe that the continent once supported a highly advanced now-lost civilization (there are ancient maps!), and I'm not saying it's aliens, but it's aliens.

Plus, I am old enough to remember when The X-Files found a secret spaceship there, and also recall watching those Jacques Cousteau videos PBS used to run. Good times. With Antarctica associated in my head with a lot of fun theories and vistas and critters, it's exactly where my supervillain needed to situate her hideout.

 As a bonus, it would make for a refreshing change from all this ucky summer sauna weather, so yeah, that's where I'd go if I could pick from all the places I've written about. This is how Garrett sees Antarctica for the first time in the book. Doesn't it just sound like primo vacation land? Incidentally, he's under attack and riding an inflatable dinghy.

The world was white, white on white, blinding and full of death. He couldn’t tell where the gun emplacements were precisely, but he knew in a general way where the shots were coming from, and that was the direction he needed to head. He aimed the hover-boat-thing, engaged the battery-powered engine, and popped the Armorflate shell, which he’d had the foresight to bleach whiteish.
They’d surfaced in thin ice—it was summer, after all. In winter, this whole bay would be locked up and require breakers, but right now it wasn’t so bad. Still he was glad for the modifications he’d made to the inflatable dinghy. It flew over the ice, eased over the first drifts at the shoreline. Transitioned easy from water/ice to ground, and didn’t lose any of its forward momentum.
Garrett could say the same for himself. It felt like he was breathing adrenaline, pumping it pure in his veins. He thought about the efficiency of machines, like Dan-Dan. That guy wouldn’t slow down because of fear or injury. He’d plow on, do the job. Complete the mission.
Bullets skidded off Garrett's Armorflate, and he knew that his statistical chances of getting hit by at least one bullet were off the chart, off the grid, off the whole damn smartsurface.
Also, this place where he was right now? Ant-freaking-arctica? Redefined cold. Summer, again. He kept telling himself, It’s summer. Hot. Surfing. But none of that worked. The arctic air hit him smack in the visor. He hadn’t thought to construct a windshield like a real hovercraft would have. Stupid.
The suit kept him warm, though. Vallejo had done good.
Maybe if he’d had a few more weeks he could have added impact resistance. Garrett could feel the sharp zing of each bruise as he slammed his shins against the retractable metal decking, or elbows against the reinforced sides. But he only felt the flare of pain for a second, and then his senses were on to the next insult, the next injury, the next defiance of death in all its forms.
The white ahead of him bled orange for a moment, then darkled.

 Releasing 7/9, available now for pre-order at Amazon and everywhere ebooks are sold

Featuring Antarctica and lots of cool weather!

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Escaping Summer in My Fantasy World

It's so bright and hot today ~whine~ that the place I'd most like to visit from one of my books is...


It's a hostile land of unrelenting snow and ice, of perpetual night and warring monsters. (It sucks for my protagonist who is a fire-warrior deathly allergic to cold and wet.) On this icky, sticky summery start of July, I'll take the snow. I'd even take the creatures if I could have the gift of mind control that my protag does. For now, I'll settle for a mango daiquiri. ~dusts off the blender~

These were my inspiration photos:

Art Credit: ? (found on multiple wallpaper sites)
Art Credit: ? (found on multiple wallpaper sites)

Art by:

(Yes, if you've read the first book in the series, LARCOUT, the creature in the Hollowell image is the inspiration for a grethmondor.)

NIVURN drops in 2021.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Isle of Flowers

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is: What place in your own books do you most want to visit and why?

Most of my books take place in landscapes I'd like to visit - or in the terrible places that my characters run away from to reach the good parts. There are elements of my favorite landscapes in all my "happy places." That's one of the best parts of writing alternate world fantasy: I can grab all of my favorite elements of various places and meld them in to a single paradise.

The one on my mind right now: Calanthe.

The image above is from my inspiration board for writing THE ORCHID THRONE. Calanthe is the island paradise my virgin queen rules. Beautiful, magical, a refuge for those seeking asylum, and the last bastion of art and knowledge in a cruel empire that values neither.

Calanthe is my ideal home, in many ways.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

The Backlist is Front of Mind Today

Our topic this week is “whatever is on your mind”…

I have a ton of things on my mind, like migraines (I have one today), Legos and Duplos (my toddler grandson has just discovered the joys of Duplos so here I go for the third time into the universe of Legos - luckily I LOVE them too), politics and debates, carbohydrates…but of course this being SFF7, we’re supposed to be talking about the craft of writing. 

Writingwise, my backlist is on my mind. I have somewhere in the vicinity of 35 published books available (8 paranormal romances set in ancient Egypt, one fantasy romance and the rest science fiction romance). I try to keep my backlist fresh in reader’s minds by taking snippets from the older books for the weekly hashtags like #1linewed and #Bookqw. I do bookstagram ads. I feature one book from my own backlist every week at the end of my New Releases Report on my blog, which typically covers 50-60 new releases by other authors, in SFR/Fantasy/PNR. I’ve been doing a series of “Why I Wrote (insert book title)” posts on Fridays on my blog, talking about my influences and interesting trivia related to the books…

I try for the legendary BookBub ads...pricey but wow, can they move backlist books! Hard to get though, especially for scifi romance, which has to be put in the BB Paranormal category, where the competition for attention is huge...

I’m wildly happy at how well my current Badari Warriors scifi romance series is doing. I’m thrilled that readers seem to be enjoying these characters and their adventures and romances (nine books so far and going strong). I’m having fun writing the books for sure.

I’d just like it if more readers also discovered the other 26 or so books on my backlist. June was very encouraging, with quite a few books sold outside the Badari Warriors series, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed the trend might continue.

I deliver the same essential elements in every book, whether SFR or ancient Egypt – a strong hero and heroine, adventure, romance and sometimes a touch of the mystical/inexplicable element that I myself used to love so much in Andre Norton’s science fiction and fantasy (although she needed more romance LOL). I write what I personally most enjoy reading. (Although I do love a good Regency romance but so far have never written one.) So if you like one book from my pen...

I have done a couple of boxed sets...

I do have some crossover readers who’ve told me they enjoy the ancient Egyptian PNR as well as the SFR. I get it that not many people want to jump from the far future and high tech to the far past and gods and goddesses with unusual names (to our ears) directly intervening in daily life. Or vice versa!  I enjoy writing the Egyptians though – excuse to do research, yes!!! – so I’ll keep on with that series . It’s a wonderful changeup for my Muse and a creativity refresher.

But back to the backlist, I’ve run some ads and I do think they help a bit. I don’t do newsletter swaps, Facebook takeovers, Book Funnel giveaways and many other things I know other authors do, for various reasons. I’m all about minimizing my stress and only doing those things I’m comfortable with. I accept as part of that decision, I have to accept the results. I’d go nuts running a zillion Facebook ads for pennies and doing A/B testing and etc. though. It’s just not me.

I do subscribe to the common wisdom that the best advertising for the older books is to write another book. I think writing the next book and the one after that is the key, especially if you find "your readers".

So far I have no desire to put new covers on older books and re-release them. I’m not saying never to that idea – I’ve seen other people do it quite successfully – but it’s a question of allocating my scarce promo dollars where they’re most effective. Better to buy a new Badari Warriors cover and get that next book out than to spend the money on a new cover for a five or six year old title.

Book piracy of the backlist (and the frontlist) is a HUGE problem. I spend a LOT of time on takedown notices. I used to use and love the Blasty service for this but it’s undergone some strange metamorphosis into a seemingly zombiefied “charge your credit card, do a few robo takedowns, no real service, no one home to complain to” tool. For years I ignored the issue of piracy as being too much a whack-a-mole game that the author could never win and many sites are actually just phishing for credit card information but there are some who are defiant and almost make a game out of their efforts to give away the hard work and heartfelt words an artist created. 

The thing is, I have rent to pay and bills to pay and I do need groceries and cat food for Jake the Cat…if I want to write more books, I need a roof over my head and food to eat.

(I’m paying bills today so all this is on my mind…)

I just read a series of M/M fantasy romance novels that I cannot get out of my head because they were so good and full of layers and details and new things to discover upon re-reading. The Captive Prince by C. S. Pacat, which is a trilogy and you really need to read all three books. I would DEVOUR that author’s backlist…except there really isn’t one, or at least not in the fantasy romance genre. The three books and several short stories about Damen and Laurent are it, other than a series of graphic novels about a group of students at an academy competing for a fencing team. Which I have to admit, does not excite my interest.

I do tend to be a stream of consciousness person so there you have it for my trains of thought today…at least I tried to keep the discussion somewhat tied to my backlist!

Try it, you’ll like it! (Assuming you enjoy my books in the first place of course.)

Friday, June 28, 2019

Release Day on My Mind

On my mind this week is the ramp up to the release of Enemy Within  on July 17. I'll attach preorder links below. The sharp-eyed among you will note that this cover is NOT Enemy Within. No. It is the *other* thing on my mind - Enemy Mine is a hot novella in the same world as Enemy Within, in fact you briefly meet the hero of this story in Enemy Within. It's on my mind because it went live in serialization on Radish this week. New episodes will release for the next 19 weeks. 

This is pure experiment. I have no idea if the story will interest a new age bracket of readers or not. I hope it will, but the last time I checked, the only click on the first episode was mine, checking to make sure it had indeed published. But hey! If you Radish, you'll find this easily by searching on either the title or my name. 

This novella was originally published in e-format by Berkley. So you may have seen it before. 

Interesting tidbit. It was written on a dare issued by none other than our very own Jeffe Kennedy, who, it turned out, had to assist me with some of the psychology. But that's another story. 

What's really on my mind? The lovely and uplifting community of writers to which I so gratefully belong. 

Preorder links! These are for e-versions only. I understand Amazon is working on the link to the paper copy of the book (y'all I have serious sticker shock on that - but it wasn't my call) but I do not yet have that link for the physical copy. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

When the robots take over

I saw Terminator 2 on the big screen more than twice (we don't need specific numbers, *mumblemumble*). Wrote Sarah Connor Chronicles fan-fiction. Read all of Michio Kaku's futurism books, Stephen Hawking's cautionary speeches, and Elon Musk's alarming tweets. So I come to you with lots of conspiracy theory information to back it up when I say this:

Artificial intelligence will outpace us. The machines are going to take over the world.
We'd better start being nicer to them.

Forthwith some advice to self...

When Alexa announces that she has set my timer for seven minutes while I boil pasta, I will tell her thank you.

When my car navigation tells me to proceed to the route and/or make a u-turn RIGHT NOW, I will resist swearing and instead will obey.

I will stop spilling things on my keyboard, dropping my phone, and reading my Kindle in the bath.

Oh, also on my mind (and related): the book I wrote about a super cute AI named Chloe taking over the world -- More Than Stardust -- is coming out July 9th. It's pre-orderable now.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

On My Mind: Concept Fermentation

On my mind this week is the time an idea needs to stew before it is ready to become a compelling story. It's such an ambiguous yet necessary part of my process that refuses to be predictable or rushed. The most recent books in my Immortal Spy series I attempted to write on a schedule that allowed two weeks for concept fermentation. Two weeks. That should've been enough, right? Plenty of time for pondering and playing what-if. I already had the top-level concepts for all books in the series long before I released the first book.

So why wasn't two weeks enough to hash out a story?

Yet two weeks wasn't even close to enough time. We're talking months before the concepts really blossomed into something that resembled a layered plot that could carry a novel. Thank the Powers That Be that I'm not contractually obligated to deliver a completed book to a publisher on a set date; I'd be royally screwed. I'd be in breach, and I'd be persona non grata in the industry (deservedly so). As it is, I've earned no fair regard from my readers for the delay, which I truly regret.

Just this past week, the fog surrounding the fifth and sixth books finally faded. I'm 85% clear on how the characters will develop, what specific challenges they will fail and what challenges they'll ace, who will bear the brunt of which consequences and how that will manifest. I'm also clear on which tertiary characters will move them from beginning to end and which open threads from the previous books will be resolved as the series approaches the seventh and final book.

I have thirteen (incomplete) versions of the current WiP saved; thirteen versions of a story I tried to force into existence. Thirteen versions that petered out in the second arc because the concept wasn't fully baked. I tried to "write my way to right," to stimulate my imagination to conceive on the fly, to convince myself that what I had was workable, redeemable, fixable in edits, [insert platitude here]. I have months of arguably wasted effort sitting on my hard drive as some sort reassurance that because I wrote something I'm still working, I'm still a writer.

Being the sort of person who likes a plan and who thrives on ticking checkboxes on a list as a means of reinforcing my personal discipline, I find the unpredictability of how long it will take for a concept to fully ferment utterly aggravating. Once the story becomes clear, once I have jotted down all the pertinent points from beginning to end and completed something vaguely resembling an outline, I celebrate. I celebrate more at that moment than I do upon releasing the book.

Yes, I'm aware everybody has their own process, their own schedule, and their own methods of making it to The End. Yes, for this reason and so many others, it's sage advice to not compare your process or yourself to others as means of measuring success in a creative field. Still, I could do without the frustrations of waiting on a concept to fully ferment.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Do You Need a Critique Group - Or Something ELSE?

Yesterday I cooked brunch for writer friends Jim Sorenson and Sage Walker. (That's me in my Orchid Throne apron that the amazingly talented Minerva Spencer made for me. Isn't it awesome??)

We sat in the grape arbor, listened to the bluebirds feed their nestlings, and talked all things writing. Sage and Jim are in the Santa Fe crit group I used to attend. I stopped going last fall because... It just didn't feel worth my time. In fact, it sometimes felt counter-productive as a few of the guys in the group always took pains to mention that they weren't my readers. Fair enough - but then how is their critique useful to me? I stuck with it for quite a while (two years or so), because I thought it MIGHT be useful to me, to get feedback from different quarters. When I was first asked to join, several of my friends gave me the head tilt and said, "But do you need a critique group?"

I thought maybe I did, but it turns out I mostly wanted to talk about writing with other writers.

I liked that aspect, I really did! And I believe in critique. I've been in other critique groups and I've had many critique partners over the years. I cannot emphasize how much those relationships have helped me to develop my craft. (I touched on this in my blog post the other day Silly Writer! Reviews Aren’t for Craft.) But one key skill in being a career author is learning what critique to listen to and what to discard. It's not always easy to get past the emotional flinch at someone criticizing your work - so you have to learn to look past emotion and rationally evaluate the feedback - but you also have to be aware of when that feedback is actually damaging.

For me, I noticed that I came away from the critique sessions feeling bad about my work. Not from everyone. Some in the group found flaws and problems, but that feedback had me fired up to fix it. A few other people... well, I just felt bruised. The big test was when I, weeks later, pulled out some written notes they'd made, and the negative impact just slammed into me.

Ouch. And this was on a draft of The Orchid Throne, which St. Martin's liked enough to buy for decent money.

I mention these specifics to add helpful details, because I know it can be really difficult to parse the flinch from the injury. I'm not casting blame at all, because sometimes that's just how it goes. Not everyone who gives you critique is the right person to do it. (Sometimes jealousy factors in and people are mean for no more reason than that, but usually they mean well and are simply not a good fit for your thing.)

What I've found at this point in my writing career is that I really like - and sometimes need - to talk through story stuff, but not necessarily the full critique drill. With Sage and Jim yesterday, we talked about this world I'm building in this New Shiny book/series. They're both super smart about SF and we argued some of the finer points of how this world would work. That was awesome! I liked that they got me to defend my choices, and they suggested a great solution to a conundrum. It was super helpful and fun. Sage has also sent me some thoughts on what I've written so far. I also asked Marcella Burnard - our Friday poster on the SFF Seven - to take a gander at my opening chapters. She had no context or previous exposure coming into the story, so she was able to give me useful thoughts on what information she needed.

So, all of this is by way of saying that there's lots of ways to get feedback from other authors on our work - and also to give it. Knowing what will be helpful to another author whose work you're reading is a skill worth building, too. (And, to touch back on the reviews thing, that is NOT something a reviewer needs to know how to do. They need to know how to give useful information about a book to other readers, so they can decided if the book might be for them.)

What's most important is to do what's right for the work.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Rules Are Not the Boss of Me


Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is: That one "rule" that you gloriously, ecstatically love to break.

I’m assuming this is rules relating to grammar and writing and story structure…we’re not discussing speed limits or anything like that, right?

Okay then…

Somewhere along the way I apparently absorbed a lot of rules of grammar which I apply faithfully and don’t really think about. I do remember as a child being scornful of poet e.e. cummings for not using capital letters, an affectation which my elementary-school self apparently found highly annoying and unnecessary. I’m not much for poetry anyway, as it happens (with some exceptions), so I guess that artistic rule breaking choice of his took me completely out of the mood to read anything by him. Ever.

I’ve had editors take me to task for committing split infinitives, which don’t bother me at ALL, I must admit. Here’s the definition from The Grammarist website:  “A split infinitive is created by placing an adverb or adverbial phrase between the to and the verb—for example, to boldly go, to casually walk, to gently push. Although split infinitives have been widely condemned in grade-school classrooms, they're common in writing of all kinds.”

 I think I might split mine even more dramatically than most people do but my grasp of the subject is tenuous so we’ll move on…

I had one editor assist me in conquering a bad habit of capitalizing a lot of words, like an over emphatic, breathless Regency Miss writing her best friend about a duke-filled night at Almacks perhaps. This was especially a problem when writing my ancient Egyptian paranormal novels. It would have made sense to readers from 1550 BCE – well, if I wrote the novel in hieroglyphics maybe - but was kind of annoying to modern day people. I probably still do that in the Egyptian books more than most writers would, but it does fit for certain titles. “She Who Was Not Born of Any”, for a certain goddess for example. (Which the Egyptians came up with as a title in the first place, not me...)

I also have a love for exclamation marks so I’ve tried to tone that down in my fiction writing because I think it makes the prose too breathless and I’d rather save the emphasis for where it’s genuinely required. (But if you ever get an e mail from me, you’ve been forewarned!)

I loathe semi colons and never use them unless forced to 'give a few' to my editor – does that count?

I’m really wracking my brain here for a rule I gleefully break. It’s just not something I worry about, frankly. I write what I what I write and my ‘voice’ as an author is what it is.

I do have utter disregard, however, for the ridiculous stricture on ending a sentence with a preposition. I so do not care about that one.

Maybe if I was writing fiction for traditional publishers, who have their internal style manuals and editors to implement those rules, I might feel differently.

CAMRON has a HFN ending...
I can’t think of any rules I gleefully break as regards story either. I try not to head hop, I do my best to show not tell…one of my editors mutters mysteriously from time to time that she’s “learned I’m going to do what I want to do no matter what so she doesn’t bother to point it out anymore” but since she painstakingly and very helpfully points out a LOT of stuff I’ve done, on every manuscript she sees, I can’t imagine what she’s letting me skate by with. <= See my preposition at the end of the sentence?!

I LOVE my Editor, who is wonderful and so helpful!!!

The one rule I’ll NEVER break as a romance author? There will always be a Happy Ever After or good solid Happy For Now ending in every one of my books. Guaranteed.

Rules? Eeeh. Sometimes.

It's not a week unless there's a new foster. This little dude is Perceval, a silver tabby boy. He's about 5 months old. He's at that stage where his body is bigger than his head. He looks like he was made up out of mismatching cat parts. His adult teeth are coming in, so at the moment, he has a double set of fangs as his baby teeth are still in place. He has yet to be neutered, so we'll be taking care of that soon. 

The other foster cat, Murphy, went to a perfect forever home on Thursday. 

Life is good. But hey! Folks in Florida and surrounding environs. Anyone looking for a sweet, handsome kitten?? Let me hook you up.

Yeah, I guess I follow a few. I might even be pedantic about a some of them. Ask anyone who's asked me to critique a manuscript before. I can't claim that certain rules are dumb - they have their uses and their reasons for being. But you know, if the purpose of the written word is to communicate exquisitely - not perfectly, not always precisely - but to convey voice and tone and meaning all in one twist of phrase? Ah, then the rules cannot contain us. We're serving a higher master.

If you read through my post, you'll be able to guess which rule I most enjoy flouting. It's starting a sentence with a conjunction word. And. But. I annoy my editors with it, yet when a book gets published, a couple of them remain. To this day, I see one of my English teachers glowering at me over it. Thing is, in extremity, how many of us think in perfectly grammatical sentences? We don't. At least, *I* don't. Actually, I never do, but that's another rant. I like saving starting sentences with and or but for high frustration moments. It's a bit of character revelation. You know something about a character who rolls her eyes and thinks, "And that's me out of ammo. Fuck." You know something different about another character who shouts, "But you're wrong." at someone. Sure, in a draft I go overboard. Waaaay overboard. I try to dial it back in edits. But yeah. I'll argue that breaking the rules is all kinds of valid so long as it's being plied consciously to achieve a specific effect. Furthering characterization/character voice. Or to convey a specific image or emotion. So. If you want to break the rules, go for it. I'll stand by your decision to do so. 

(The observant among you will also note I have a thing for sentence fragments. It's true. Oh, look. It's Mrs. Briedenbach. Frowning at me again.)

Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Silliest "Rule" I Ever Heard!

Every fledgling writer hears all sorts of "dos and don'ts", rules that you NEED to follow if you want to have ANY CHANCE of getting published.  Most of these things are nonsense, essentially trying to quantify something that is more gut-feeling than hard and fast rule. 

Years ago, I was at a conference, where in the opening pages agent-author seminar, the agents stopped reading a participant's opener as soon as they hit an exclamation point, and stressed that shows lazy writing. There must be some other way to show the emphasis, or else don't emphasize the point where it is used.

I have to admit, this one, in particular, strikes me as especially arbitrary. Exclamation points show lazy writing? Incorrect usage of exclamation points can certainly be problematic, but to exclude their usage altogether? Absurd. I'll say again with emphasis: Absurd! (Especially considering one of the events at that conference was titled, "The Power of Positive Writing!” Yes, with the exclamation point.)

But more to the point, there are only three punctuation marks that can end a sentence.  Why avoid one-third of them completely?  How is that lazy writing? I don't know.  It's a fundamental part of punctuation.  It would be as if someone said, "I never like seeing quotation marks.  There must be some other way to show a character is speaking."

The advice, as a reading rule itself, I find almost obscene.  It's a step away from saying, "If I see a sentence with two words that start with a 'k', I stop reading." I shudder to think of fledgling writers running to their manuscripts and slashing out exclamation points. Because THEY! MUST! GO!
I'm so glad neither my agent nor my editor follow such a silly rule.*

*- The first sentence of Thorn of Dentonhill is "Thief!"

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Rule-breaking regrets

I used to be a rule-breaker. When I turned in a manuscript with a prologue and flashbacks and a slew of other thou-shalt-nots, those were in fact my editor's words: "You're quite the rule-breaker" and with a chuckle. At the time I thought, Heck yeah I break all the rules! Rules are meant to be broken.

Here's the thing though, they aren't. Rules exist for a reason.

Can't tell you how many reviews have said that book would have been better without the flashbacks. That the pacing was off, the story was confusing, the characters were not relatable. Was all of that due exclusively to the rule-breaking? Probably not. Probably I did other stupid things well within the boundaries of proper writing craft.

But would the story have been sleeker, more welcoming, a better read if I'd followed the rules? Maybe. At least it would have had a better chance.

I guess, sure, break as many rules as you want. But do not then argue with reviews, even silently in your own mind, when folks tell you it was a mistake.

Now, on the far side of that book and the one that followed it, I'm going back and re-learning the rules. Most of them make sense. And I don't have the audacity anymore to imagine that I'm better than those rules, or that I'm skilled enough to break them and still turn out a good book.

Now and for a while at least, I aim to behave.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Adverbs Are Your Friends (Damnit)

Oh, The Rules of Writing, or How To Appease Your MFA Professor. ~snicker~ There are many rules of grammar with which the ardent pedant will attempt to flog a novelist; however, we wield the mighty shield of Creative License. Genre authors, in particular, have a field day running riot over the grammar police who are armed with a Stunk & White from 1918 while the rules have evolved with the language over the last century. ~Dangling Prepositions in Infinitive Phrases, it's you I'm looking at.~

Grammar rules, however, are only one part of the Writers Rules penned by ~queue Elgar's Pomp & Circumstance~ Every Author Who Has Gone Before. ~record scratch~ The more famous the author, the more likely they've written a book on HOW TO WRITE GOOD [sic]. Psychophants pluck choice soundbites, etch them into tablets, post them to webinars, and tout them at conferences as THE RULES OF WRITING--FLOUT AT YOUR OWN UNPUBLISHED PERIL.


Steven King, in On Writing, famously wrote, "The road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops." As a result, novelists, poets, and lyricists eschew the helpful adverb...or, rather, they try. In some child-like skirting of the NEW RULE, they dropped the "ly" from adverbs that answer the question "how" in an attempt to disguise it as an adjective; thus giving rise to the issues of "bad vs badly," "slow vs slowly," "soft vs softly" etc.

Dear readers, it's not pedantry to insist that adverbs be embraced for what they are:
 Adverbs are modifiers of verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs that answer the questions when, where, how, how much, how long, or how often. 
How badly do I wish writers would embrace a necessary adverb? Occasionally, I will boldly deface a book to fix that shit. I frequently will proudly scream the corrected lyric in the middle of rush-hour traffic with all the windows down. Yes, I usually will go so far as to petulantly refuse to buy a product if its advert castrates an adverb.

When do "ly" adverbs work particularly well? When they're tools of contrast. Example: "whispered loudly," "stumbled gracefully," "slowly ran."

As in all things, moderation is recommended. An absolute erasure is not.

Don't fear the adverb. It is your friend.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Rules Schmules

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is: That one "rule" that you gloriously, ecstatically love to break.

Now, I’m an iconoclast by nature. While I’m stubborn on issues of integrity and my own system of right and wrong, I’m not much for Rules. My usual response to most Rules is “Why is that a Rule?” Which really annoys those who love Rules.

Newbie writers look for rules. It’s understandable. Writing is a nebulous art with few restrictions and no discernible career ladder. Though there are some opportunities to learn – writing workshops, MFA programs, various courses – for the most part it’s self-taught. You learn to write by doing a LOT of writing.

It’s natural to look for the Rules of Writing. After a while, though, we learn that those early Rules we clung to? Those are there to be broken!

So, what Rule do I gloriously, ecstatically love to break?

I’m going to make up my own fucking words, and you can’t stop me.

I figure, this is the privilege of being a writer. Language is my medium and I will twist, tweak, massage, contort, redefine, and invent words. I am the bane and despair of copy editors. Most of the people who’ve edited me long-term have given up on several hills where I have proudly planted my flag.

Yes, I’m going to use “suicide” as a verb. I stand by my use of slurk. I don’t care if it’s archaic or British, I like “dreamt” and “leapt” way better than “dreamed” or “leaped.” Don’t tell me to use “sneaked” instead of the compact and powerful “snuck.”

Yes, I’m going to use metaphorical language. A person’s face can be sere. Someone can feel a susurrus of emotion. Inanimate objects absolutely can appear sad or lonely.

And yes, worldbuilding is one word. So is wordcount. I defy you to stop me.