Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What The Hell Are You Writing About?

Sometimes I have to ask myself this question and I'm sure others do, too. I know I've sometimes wondered this about some of my favorite writers. I mean, is it just a good story, or is there something more to it?

First off, writing science fiction, my setting conveys a lot of what I think and hope we will do as a species. We have made great strides in our acceptance of the various segments of the human population so I'm assuming, after some initial rough patches, that we would get along with other species. Please note, I do not use the term 'race' as it is inaccurate. When we encounter another sentient life-form, it will be a different species. Race is for superficial distinctions within a species.

I think that as we go forward as a species, we are likely to maintain most of our traits. I don't foresee us changing all that much, not in the course of time I am covering. I think that will get us in trouble a time or two. I haven't revealed much in what has been printed so far, but there are a couple of major wars in the past including one that led to a severe dark age. I see old animosities dying off in our modern world and I've applied that to how we will end up forging a galaxy wide society.

We will have people who abide by the law, people who skirt it, and people who ignore it. I like to concentrate on those who skirt it. Let's just say I was far too enamored with the smugglers of Star Wars and the traders of Asimov's Robot/Foundation. Oddly enough as Firefly celebrates its 10th anniversary, it had no influence in the world I've created. I didn't discover it until after I'd written Pirates of I'ab. Still, Malcolm Reynolds belongs to that same surly bunch of renegades. Ven Zaran strives to keep up the illusion of having a legal business.

When it comes to the stories, I firmly believe that the characters should take center stage. Regardless of the story, it is the characters we remember long after we finish reading. And characters, like real people, should never be simple. Ven Zaran is anything but simple. For one thing, that isn't even his real name. It's an alias he adopted when he left home to travel among the stars. I thrown hints here and there, but he took the name from his childhood best friend, Zaran, and a legendary vid drama hero, Vendarka. He took a last name and made it his first name and a first name and made it his last name. So he doesn't hesitate to adopt more alias's to broaden his ability to smuggle goods.

But what good is a character without flaws. It is those flaws that make us relateable. While Ven is a consummate smuggler, he has ghosts from his past that led to a drug addiction. He meets a women who gives him the strength to break that addiction, only to fall back to it when she is lost temporarily in Well of Dreams and then in Interlude of Pain. Each time it rears up it is harder to escape. The harder it is to escape the more danger it poses to his career.

One thing I often get frustrated with in science fiction is character development. All too often characters develop by gaining new positions. A trader becomes a prince or mayor. That isn't very realistic. Most people work for years on end at the same job, working up to the pinnacle of their field. For the real traders out there, the freighter captains and truck drivers, that pinnacle is often owning their own vehicle and making their business a success. That is where Ven is headed. He's a trader and that's all he's ever wanted to be. Like Kirk promoted to Admiral, Ven just wouldn't do well as a corporate executive. It isn't him, though I do have something fun planned. I've been planting the seeds in each of the books and there are hints in one of the short stories in Edge of Hyperspace.

I have other stories in mind. I have another series in early development that will explore inter-species communication and be a bit more violent. I have another that is a good epic space opera yarn about someone in the right place at the right time who becomes a hero. With a twist, there isn't a single human character in it. It takes place on the far side of the galaxy. That one is more developed, I just need to find my materials (not easy for a pack rat like me).

People and Places, that is what I write about. People that we can relate to in settings that are incredible, but at the same time, just ordinary for these characters. While I won't claim to be the next master of science fiction, I am out tell a good story and paint a picture of the tapestry of our future as I see it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Holiday Season Is Near

There is always lots of excitement this time of year. Here in the US we have the standard holidays of Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas, and New Years. For writers we also have National Novel Writing Month (and I still would love to go back in time and tell the founders that November is not a good month). But with the coming holiday season we also have the biggest sales period of the year. Like it or not, Christmas is THE major gift giving holiday.

For those of us who have self-published, it is a season filled with opportunities. Many of us are preparing new titles for release, some are scouring their existing work to make sure they are perfect. Oddly, for ebooks, I've heard that the big sales period isn't leading up to Christmas, it is Christmas day and the following days as people with new ereaders search out titles to fill up the empty space so they have something to read.

In the current landscape of self-published ebooks, it takes some planning to time things just right. You don't want a title out for too long or it won't show up as prominently. But with companies like Smashwords distributing to other retailers, you also want to be early enough so your title is in all the retailers by Christmas day. That takes some doing. I was no where near ready last year so I took my time and didn't put out my first book until the end of January. Now, after 10 months of experience, I think I am ready for the challenge. I'm probably deluding myself, but we'll see.

My offering this season is the third volume of the Zaran Journals. We pick up with Ven a few years after Pirates of I'ab and things don't start out well for him. I've dealt him a pretty severe blow and now he has to come to terms with it. Actually, if you've picked up Edge of Hyperspace, you've read part of the story. Seeking Justice, featuring Wally, is an excerpt of sorts. You'll have to look for Interlude of Pain and pick it up if you want to know what Ven and the rest of his crew are up to.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Long Road

Now that the news media have moved on to other things, most people will probably let Malala Yousafzai slide off their radar. I have no intention of doing that. She is smart and courageous and definitely worth continuing to follow as she starts down the long road to recovery. For those who share my interest, I'm putting up a video from last week of Malala and her family. There's no sound (just so you don't turn the volume way up because you can't hear anything). Her father seems very pleased but Malala herself looks much better, but you can see that the left side of her face lack much movement. I don't know if that is damage from the bullet or pain killers, but is does show that her injuries are still pretty serious.

I wish her continued improvement and health. I'll post more when I find out more.