My Science Fiction Influencers

Last month I talked about my fantasy influencers. I’ll always enjoy reading fantasy because it’s about things we don’t have like magic or fantastic creatures. But speculating on what our society will be like in the future is also great fun. So this month, I’d like to talk about the science fiction authors who inspired me.

Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov was the master of both short and long fiction, and was probably the most prolific author of all time (all but one Dewey Decimal category covered!). He also had some insightful ideas of not only future technology but about the way society might evolve and change.

Most of his stories were written in our universe and spanned thousands of years. My idea for the Darklight Universe comes from this concept. With millions of stars and planets, they can easily share the same universe. Sharing like this can lead to cool intersections.

The Caves of Steel begins the whole I, Robot related series of books involving a human police detective who hates robots and is naturally partnered with a humanoid looking robot. You may have seen the movie, but there are several books involving this duo as they solve crimes involving the three laws of robotics. Not only are the logic puzzles they solve interesting, the backdrop of futuristic societies on Earth and other planets is a fascinating addition.

The human detective eventually passes away and R. Daneel Olivaw has to face his ‘feelings’ about his friend dying. Civilization continues, and a man called Hari Seldon develops psychohistory–a means of studying human behavior as a whole and using that to predict the future. That whole Facebook – Cambridge Analytica fiasco reminded me of a precursor to psychohistory. (Ok, maybe a real embryonic form of it). Hari has his own drama in trying to keep his invention from nefarious groups who would abuse it. And guess what–R. Daneel Olivaw appears again to encourage Hari to develop his science so humanity can prosper. He winds up having the most important role. Who would have thought it in those robot detective stories?

I loved how both robots and humanity evolved over the centuries. But Asimov didn’t only write about our civilization. Probably one of the most poignant stories about humanity’s behavior came from a group of people living on a planet with six suns. They never saw nighttime except once every 2000 years. Imagine the chaos! Or simply read Nightfall!

The other thing I took away from reading Asimov was the philosophy of writing short stories that had a strong punch to them at the end. I am still awed by how much feeling I had when reading Eyes Do More Than See. That story is only around 930 words, yet it is complete and satisfying.

Arthur C. Clarke

Another major influence on me was Arthur C. Clarke, mainly for his scientific ideas that seemed achievable. In fact, while Yuri Artsutinov was the inventor of the space tether, it was Clarke who popularized the idea when he published The Fountains of Paradise. And now this is an actual thing we could do. Same with modern satellites and internet.

He was also a master of telling stories. I think everyone has heard of 2001: A Space Odyssey, or at least the Stanley Kubrick movie where HAL says in a calm voice. “What are you doing Dave?” The movie, at the beginning, was very confusing if you didn’t read the book, but it’s an interesting look into aliens perhaps influencing our evolution. And just when you think it’s all about figuring out a homicidal computer… the aliens become a thing again!

I liked how Clarke presented a more positive view of aliens than other books at the time, or even today. Rendezvous With Rama was a nice change of pace where scientists worked together to explore an alien unknown. No murderous intent, just that feeling of wonder and uncertainty.

Childhood’s End is another story that presents aliens in a non-threatening light. What I enjoyed most is that the story doesn’t go like you think it will. I like taking tropes and turning them sideways or upside down.

 

Clarke also wrote several short stories. I enjoyed these because he always had a good eye to what science might be able to do and incorporated that.

 

C. J. Cherryh

I learned a lot about writing alien cultures by reading books by C. J. Cherryh. Her cat people (hani) have a comprehensive culture that feels very realistic. Same with the atevi in Foreigner.  She’s usually got a human in with the aliens to connect with readers, but I think her depiction of alien societies is so well done she didn’t need the humans.

I loved her work so much that I scrounged used book stores to get many of her titles. At least it looks like all her stuff is available on Kindle now, including the The Complete Morgain (Morgain Cycle), which is a combination of time travel and science fiction with a fantasy vibe.

Roger Zelazny

Speaking of mixing science fiction with fantasy, I have to mention Roger Zelazny. Unfortunately, a lot of his work is paperback only, like Lord of the Light. A group of colonists use technology and Hindu religion to become the gods their ancestors worshiped. One person stands against them and their oppression of the colonists.

Then, there’s the Amber series. The main character, Corwin, has no memory of who he is and is living on Earth until an assassination attempt spurs him to discover who he is and what strange powers he has. Amber is the original world through which all others are mere shadows, including Earth. Corwin and his people can use Tarot cards to talk to one another and journey through the card. They can also use their mental powers to carve a path through the various worlds by making slight modifications as they walk until the scenery matches their destination.

Yes, it’s fantasy with some modern technology thrown in. However, many of his stories, long and short, contain a blend of science fiction and fantasy which I found pretty fun to read. Also, his stuff is imaginative and the descriptions are really vivid.

There are many other great science fiction writers like James P. Hogan, Anne McCaffrey (Ship Who Sang series), Philip K. Dick, Frank Herbert, Douglas Adams, Neal Stephenson, and Ann Leckie (my current favorite). I encourage you to check them out!

My Fantasy Story Influencers

This month, I thought I would talk about authors who have influenced my writing. Although there are numerous authors that have shaped my ideas about fantasy, four come to mind as ones I most want to imitate.

Barbara Hambly


GIL KNEW THAT IT was only a dream. There was no reason for her to feel fear—she knew that the danger, the chaos, the blind, sickening nightmare terror that filled the screaming night were not real; this city with its dark, unfamiliar architecture, these fleeing crowds of panic-stricken men and women who shoved her aside, unseeing, were only the vivid dregs of an overloaded subconscious, wraiths that would melt with daylight. She knew all this; nevertheless, she was afraid.

If that first paragraph doesn’t hook you, I don’t know what will. Barbara Hambly has such vivid descriptions that make scenes come to life. I was there with Gil as she stood amongst strangers fleeing from some unknown, but well felt horror.


She wrote another series that’s fairly similar, called the Windrose Chronicles. There she throws a modern day computer programmer into a fantasy world via a kidnapping. I read this series and the Darwath series until my paperbacks turned crinkly.


Finally, she has a vampire based urban fantasy, The James Asher Novels for all the UF fans out there.
I knew if I ever wrote stories, I’d wanted my description to be like hers–filled with emotion the reader can almost physically experience. I also love the idea of crossing sci fi with magic and writing in multiple genres.

Janny Wurts

The longboat cleaved waters stained blood-red by sunset, far beyond sight of any shore. A league distant from her parent ship, at the limit of her designated patrol, she rose on the crest of a swell. The bosun in command shouted hoarsely from the stern. ‘Hold stroke!’

Beaten with exhaustion and the aftermath of battle, his crewmen responded. Four sets of oars lifted, dripping above waters fouled by oil and the steaming timbers of burned warships.

‘Survivors to starboard.’ The bosun pointed toward two figures who clung to a snarl of drifting spars. ‘Quick, take a bearing.’

That passage is from the eleven book Wars of Light and Shadow epic fantasy saga. Book 10 was just released and the audio can be preordered (yay!).

Janny Wurts is another author who has vivid imagery. I first read Janny Wurts as part of a collaboration with Raymond Feist in Daughter of the Empire.
She’s gone on to write several standalones in addition to her WoLaS series.

The special thing about Janny’s writing is the way she uses few words to paint a detailed image. She also has the ability to use as few as two words to convey an assault on the senses. ‘Dropped meat’ comes to mind: how the meat would land on the floor, squish, and spurt. Maybe even give the reader a sense of smell. She sprinkles these in her writing like rich spices in a savory stew. I enjoy them so much I try to add my own here and there. But, she’s definitely the master at it!

It’s truly amazing the power she wields with so few words. Also, this series is the only one I’ve ever reread after each new book and discovered more that was hinted at or even explicitly stated but missed the first time around. I can’t imagine how much time she spends weaving such intricate threads in this complex series.

If you aren’t quite up for a super epic fantasy series, her standalones like To Ride Hell’s Chasm and Sorcerer’s Legacy have her same sense of vivid imagery without the complexity of a large series.


Grace Draven

“Yield to me, Master of Crows, and I will make you ruler of kingdoms.”

Silhara of Neith groaned and doubled over, clutching his midriff. Blood streamed from his nose and dripped on the balcony’s worn stones. The god’s voice, familiar and insidious, wrapped around his mind. Transfixed beneath the rays of a jaundiced star, he huddled against the crumbling parapet, fighting an evil the priests assumed long vanquished.

Grace Draven combines poetic imagery with steamy romance in her fantasy romance books. What I love about her stories, is her dedication to writing a serious fantasy tale even as she twines a rather deep romance story in with it.

She has a Beauty and the Beast influenced story called Entreat Me that’s probably the most unique of the ones I’ve read set in a fantasy world.

If you want more of a standard fantasy series, she’s also currently writing the Wraith Kings series.

Finally, if you enjoy ‘gaslamp fantasy romance with a sprinkling of airships, monsters and ghosts’, check out Gaslight Hades, part of The Bonekeeper Chronicles.

My stories aren’t quite as steamy or romance focused as hers, but I strive for the poetic and sensual aspects of her writing.

Brandon Sanderson

Kalak rounded a rocky stone ridge and stumbled to a stop before the body of a dying thunderclast. The enormous stone beast lay on its side, riblike protrusions from its chest broken and cracked. The monstrosity was vaguely skeletal in shape, with unnaturally long limbs that sprouted from granite shoulders. The eyes were deep red spots on the arrowhead face, as if created by a fire burning deep within the stone. They faded.

Even after all these centuries, seeing a thunderclast up close made Kalak shiver. The beast’s hand was as long as a man was tall. He’d been killed by hands like those before, and it hadn’t been pleasant.

Of course, dying rarely was.

I first discovered Brandon Sanderson when I heard that some nutjob was daring to finish Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. I mean, who could possibly want to do that or was capable of doing it? Once I read one of his stories though, I was a rabid fan!

What I love about Brandon’s stories is his detailed world building. In all of his stories, he has a complete environment built up with alien creatures, plants, and civilizations that feel like they belong and have been entrenched in that world for eons. Nothing seems out of place.

The other remarkable aspect of Brandon’s stories is his detailed magic systems. Every world he comes up with has an intricate and unique way of doing magic, from imbibing metals in The Mistborn Trilogy to stealing breaths in Warbreaker to stamping things in The Emperor’s Soul to alter their appearance. Each of his systems has rules and limitations and he sticks to those.As a lover of physics and science, I like the idea of rules for magic and incorporate those in my own designs. I also like building worlds that make sense.

 

Each of these authors is on my ‘buy everything from’ list and I encourage you to check them out.

So… Bomb Cyclones? Really?

Happy post-New Year’s!

I hope your holidays were enjoyable. I watched the New Year’s fireworks at the Space Needle from the comfort of my nice warm home! I love internet streaming!

I must say though, it’s certainly warmer here than the East Coast when they got hit with a bomb cyclone. Apparently these happen when the barometric pressure drops at least 24 mbar in 24 hours. The more air that’s sucked into the vortex, the lower the pressure and the bigger the storm.

Queue up vivid memories of The Day After Tomorrow which gave some science-y sounding explanation about super storms sucking down super cold air too fast for it to heat up which basically meant the cyclone was freezing you into a solid fleshsickle.

I read another article that said these are also called winter hurricanes which again conjured up images of The Day After Tomorrow. I think I’m going to have to watch it again soon. Save as many as you can! All I can say is stay safe East Coast! (I’ve included the link to the Amazon DVD in case you haven’t seen it yet, plus it’s a convenient way to post the picture.)

In other news:

I’m making slow but steady progress on Book 2 in the Darklight Universe series. I also stole time away from writing to plot out the ideas for the next three books plus their tentative titles. Now I just have to get all those words written down! Here’s a tease of chapter 4:

The bickering nobles sounded like a pack of dire cats fighting over a kill.

As you might guess, things aren’t going as planned, though when do they ever? It would make for a boring book if they all lived happily ever after with no scuffles!

That’s all I have for now. So stay safe, warm, and don’t drive in the frozen rain! You know the storms are bad when the weather people are naming them!

Happy Holidays and Cookie Baking!

Happy SOLSTICE!! Yay! I love Pacific NW summers but the winters are DARK. Even though I’m not a Wiccan, I love, love, love the winter solstice because it means we’ll get our daylight back. (Rather quickly here, too.)

Happy Hanukkah too for those who celebrated it. I believe that’s over now, but hope yours was a good one. There are like a hundred different celebrations for winter. Probably an attempt to cheer people up in the cold and dark. (Well, at least on the top half of the world!)

My hubby asked for snickerdoodle cookies since I was planning to make chocolate chip cookies for Christmas and he can’t eat chocolate (poor thing). I thought, sure, let me look up the recipe. The list was the usual, flour, sugar, actually lots of sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Then I paused and wrote back to him (chatting over Battle net) ‘What the heck is cream of tartar?’

Those of you who are cooks are probably laughing about now. But I truly thought cream of tartar was some French cream based sauce thing. So when I saw that was an ingredient for, essentially, sugar cookies, I was confused.

Now, I’m no young spring chicken. I’ve seen over fifty winter solstices. I’ve helped my mom bake stuff (ok, I was strong armed into helping and still have an aversion to stirring candy to the whatever crack stage it required.) And I’ve never once had to add cream of tartar to a recipe. Until now.

So, super confused, I Googled it (Oops, sorry trademark violation. I meant I searched using Google). Here’s the long explanation: What is cream of tartar? Basically, it makes egg whites stand up when making meringue, makes angel food cake whiter, can help veggies retain their natural color when cooking, and makes a snickerdoodle more chewy. It’s also a white powder that looks like baking soda but isn’t.

So I feel a bit stupid as well as educated. Go figure!

Other fun bits for the holiday. I put up the mini tree and bought a few new ornaments for it –

A Ripley Work Loader Aliens ornament which sits at the base of the mini tree since it’s a bit too large to hang. (Yep, that’s an Amazon link showing the pretty picture. You can click on it if you really want to buy it. Ripley is awesome!)

 

And a U.S.S. Franklin ornament with lights. I didn’t plug in the batteries but I bet it looks sweet. This one is small enough to hang on my not quite two foot tree, but it didn’t come with a loop of cord and I was too lazy to find something I could use for that. Oh well, it sits at the base and looks good!

I still have plenty of Star Wars ornaments from last year in case anyone was looking at my blog funny for missing a very obvious component given the movie that just came out. I plan to watch it after New Years. So yes, I still have Star Wars cred!

I have one measly package to wrap because my other surprise is off in la la land. Sorry hubby! I’ll get to that sometime before Christmas. Yep, the procrastinating is strong with this one!

And, that’s all the prep work I’ve got planned for the holidays. Well, aside from cookie baking and fixing food to eat.

If you have any fun stories, feel free to share!

Writing Research

Writing is fun, but it can involve some interesting research. This week’s topics delved into evolution of the first plants and insects and a closer look at trees.

Interesting tidbits from the Wiki: (Ma = million years ago)

530 Ma – The first known 🦂footprints🦂 on land date to 530 Ma, indicating that early animal explorations may have predated the development of terrestrial plants.

430 Ma – The first 🌱plants🌵 came on land, 🌳forests🌴began flourishing in 363 Ma, yet 🌾grasses🌾 didn’t develop until 70 Ma.

407 – 396 Ma – 🐜Insects🦗 came fairly early on in the evolutionary timeline, including 🐝flying insects🐝 (or at least the beginnings of them).

66 Ma – 🦖Dinosaurs🦖 go 💣💥boom🔥!

60 – 55 Ma -🌾Grasses🌾 have a distinct pollen that is easily identified in the fossil record. From that, scientists know that they had a very late start compared to other plant types. In fact, grasses came after the dinosaurs went extinct.

Finally, 🌲pine trees🌲 have male and female pine cones. Some of you might know this already and I am pretty sure I knew at one time, but simply forgot. The males are those skinny little runts at the end of branches that appear lower down. The wind then lifts up their ‘stuff’ to hit the larger female pine cones when they open up. Of course, some pine cones require forest fires to propagate.

So ends the history lesson. Hope you enjoyed it (or at least enjoyed all the emoticons I found to match the topics!)

Happy Halloween and Samhain and end of the fall harvest!

“Moisture hung in the chill evening air in that halfway place between fog and rain.  The denuded trees thrust their claw-like branches upward while their leafy corpses littered the ground—evidence of a battle lost.”

 

This quoted first paragraph of my latest short story, The Vampire’s Raven, reflects exactly what I’m seeing outside my window on this cold, foggy, dark, damp, dreary October day. After a summer of long, cloudless days and warm, but not too hot, temperatures, the rapid slide into fall always makes me kind of grumpy. It is pitch black at seven a.m. and equally dark at seven p.m. which leaves me waking up sometimes not knowing whether it’s morning or night, especially with my variable sleep schedule.

At this point in the year, I contemplate breaking out the Christmas lights. Oh, who am I kidding—I set them up long ago in my bedroom for some cheer and haven’t taken them down since. However, I did get a star globe which plugs into my computer’s USB port and shines red, blue, and green stars on the ceiling. I think I’ll actually set that up very soon. Because you see it’s very dark here, even during the day, with the thick cloud cover giving the sun the middle finger.

This moody scene did inspire me to write a vampire paranormal story though, based on one of the few poets I actually like—Edgar Allen Poe. And since a badass vampire wouldn’t lament his lost Lenore, he’d do anything to get her back, the story is only inspired by The Raven instead of an actual modern retelling. Because we all need some good kick butt demon slaying to cheer us up when winter is coming. (Yep, I totally went there.)

You can buy my novelette directly from Amazon right now, or you can wait until Nov 1 to get it for free as part of the 150 plus book promo – The Ebookaroo SFF November promo – which is sure to keep you occupied during the cold, winter months. (Or the blasted heat if you are in the upside down part of the world!)

Warning! The free offer ends Nov 15.

The Summoner and the Seer is now available for purchase!

So I did it. I hit publish and my first novel is out on Amazon. It feels really good and also a little scary.

Fun facts

  • Some of the earlier chapters I hadn’t read in months. I’m more of an ‘edit a chapter as I get done with it and then move on’ kind of writer. It was fun to see the waffling of style choices as I went with quoted italics for thoughts in the beginning and later dropped the quotes near the middle. I had to clean all that up.
  • There were 12 instances of calling poor Nalani, ‘Nalini’. I remember that stretch of writing where I’d taken a break and came back and, for the life of me, I kept getting her name wrong even though I do have an outline with all the peoples’ names listed. I thought I’d found all the mistakes and corrected them. LOL! I was wrong.
  • I like using ‘stand up’ a lot. For future reference, it’s ok to say ‘he stood’ without the ‘up’.
  • I had 44 instances of two spaces in a row even though I’ve long gotten used to only one space after ending punctuation. I’m old, but not too old to learn new tricks, thank you very much! So where did all those come from? I blame aliens!
  • The word count came to 102,435 give or take a few depending on ebook or print format since I do some hyperlink cleanup for the print version. (Sheesh, they haven’t invented click on paper to bring up web pages yet?)

To buy the book (it’s free if you are in Kindle Unlimited!), click this link: http://a.co/j1BgKgo

Instafreebie Promotions

I also have an Instafreebie promotion where you can read the first three chapters for free to see if you want to buy it. (Same as viewing the Look Inside on Amazon).

Just my book sample:
https://www.instafreebie.com/free/Fj6Bm

A giveaway I joined with other fantasy books that might be cool too: https://www.instafreebie.com/free/KGibxnCCigvDiFmaQDQI

Enjoy!

 

 

I am a Published Author!

So it’s official – I published the short story ‘The Archmage’s Eclipse’ this week – which makes me a published author. Four people bought it too. Ok, so I was one, my mom was the second, and two friends make up the total. But hey, it’s a start! You can find it here: Book on Amazon.

I’m still waiting on feedback for my main story, ‘The Summoner and the Seer’ and hope to publish that by the end of this month. In the meantime, I got to work out all the kinks in going from a Word document to an actual ebook and print version. I learned all sorts of stuff that I never really thought about until I began to travel this road. Who knew there were multiple options when saving a PDF?

I’ve also begun writing another short story, a SciFi one this time, that will introduce a new series. Don’t worry, I still plan to write the sequel to ‘The Summoner and the Seer’ first. I already have it roughly sketched out, and should begin writing on it once book 1 is out.

I’m going to use this week of lingering 80 degree (F) weather to bask in the heat and write. I hope everyone else enjoys what is left of the summer, and hope those affected by Hurricane Harvey get the help they need to recover quickly.

Eclipse Lighting is Good For Writing

So Frontier Communications sent me an email to tell me that Slooh, this really cool web site devoted to astronomy lovers, was going to broadcast the Aug 21st eclipse on live streaming. Since I wasn’t going to travel to a place with totality, I got super excited about seeing it live. So excited, that I started thinking of a story involving an eclipse. Of course, it would have to happen on an equinox because I wanted to keep it in the fall and magical things tend to happen in stories during one of the four special earth-sun positions. So then, what about a warlock who uses the shift in power during the eclipse to summon a demon army. Sounds cool, right?

Around the same time, I read an article on the web about a woman diagnosed with Alzheimer’s who wrote out her living will and declaration of how she wanted to die with dignity. Only, she didn’t specify ‘hand feeding’ so when it came time to stop feeding her, the care givers couldn’t at that point because she opened her mouth when they hand fed her and they were morally obligated to keep doing so. It was a heartbreaking and moving article that made me feel for all sides involved. It stuck with me so when I wrote the protagonist in the eclipse story, he wound up having memory loss and physical injury caused by the very warlock he would have to face again during the eclipse and win the fight or lose the world.

Excited by the story idea, I starting writing sometime after the Game of Thrones episode and well into the morning. I turned on the Slooh broadcast and wrote while glancing out my window as the lighting started to get odd. At the time, I hadn’t realized we’d be experiencing 92% totality but knew something was wrong because the light was turning freaky weird. In fact, by the time I saw the total come and go on Slooh, I dove outside and basked in the rays of the craziest lighting I’ve ever seen. It’s not dusk lighting. No, this had sharp shadows and cool wispy crescent shadows from the pine trees. I’d never seen pine tree eclipse shadows before, only leafy tree ones, so that was really amazing to see. The lighting when looking up in the sky (not at the sun though!) was anemic – probably the best term to describe it. We still had light but it was like something had sucked part of it away and altered the color in a subtle manner that words and even pictures will never describe. You just have to experience it.

I finished the story around 2pm and was punch drunk with lack of sleep and the need to share the story with someone. So I gave it to a few friends and eagerly waited for their responses. I made two of them cry! I think that’s the best compliment I could ever receive about my writing. The thought of touching someone with words that I put to page is a heady feeling. The story is called The Archmage’s Eclipse and it will be available soon on Instafreebie and maybe some other places to gather newsletter signups and hopefully stir up interest in my book.

Which leads me to the next piece of good news – I’ve finished the first draft of The Summoner and the Seer! Yes, that’s right. I went from 92%, if you looked at my progress bar, to 100% in the two days following my absorption of freaky eclipse sun rays! I still have to edit the thing and do a full read to make sure all the foreshadowing and story stuff flows. But I’m very excited to have finished my first novel ever. It came out at just over 100k words.

So an entire short story and 9k words written since bathing in eclipse sun rays – I’d say eclipse lighting is good for writing!

Subscribing to the Blog and Other Things…

So, apparently you can use FeedBurner as an easy peasy way to let people subscribe to your RSS feed without the weird RSS mumbo jumbo dance on the user’s side of things. So, yay! Added that to the web site at the bottom. Just because I can!

Book update: I’m on chapter 23 and 89k words now. Also, I found a pretty nice looking template to prettify the pages so it will look spiff when publishing (in theory anyway!). Supposedly, the template works for both print and ebook form, but we’ll see! (Cue ominous music!)

Finally, I was cackling quite gleefully in this week’s Game of Thrones episode. Was also a bonus that it was streaming to my computer this weekend, so guess GRRM missed stabbing HBO live stream in the back like he’s been doing on and off in the past weeks. *chortle*. So sad to be coming to the end of this season already. However, a certain rat-faced, sneaky person can’t ‘end’ soon enough. I just hope he gets a wonderful ‘end’! Will he, or will he not make it to next season? Hmm… Probably too good a villain to axe him just yet.