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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Don't Judge A Book By Its Genre

I just can't help shuddering whenever someone tells me, "I don't read science fiction!" I'm sorely tempted to respond, "So what type of science fiction have you tried?"

I realize that all brands of SF are not everyone's cup of tea. I've read widely and have my own likes and dislikes; however, I have come to know that all novels in the genre are not alike. ( I'm not talking here about other media, such as TV, movies, comic books, etc. ) You can't judge all SF novels by the one or two you may've already read.

For instance, if you're a fan of fantasy, you might enjoy reading Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern books. When I read the first book, Dragonflight, I assumed it was fantasy--after all, dragons! McCaffrey later confirmed that the series was SF as her people originally came from another world where there were no dragons.

A lot of SF is "hard" science fiction; in other words, it's based on hardware and scientific principles and theories, real or imagined. In that category are many books by Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven's Ringworld, and Hal Clement's Mission of Gravity.

To tell you the truth, I prefer what's known as "soft" SF: novels which concentrate more on character development and relationships rather than hardware. I'm particularly fond of Zenna Henderson's People books, which are about a race of human-like characters who come to Earth as survivors of a world that's been destroyed. These books are emotional, spiritual, and often heart-wrenching. I love them!

"Space opera" is another related genre, among others. Unlike SF, it tends to be action-oriented with little to no character development. (Think shoot-'em-up in space! ) My novel Galaxy Rand is unabashed space opera.

The brand of science fiction that I usually write ( such as my Tartarus Trilogy ) definitely falls into the category of soft SF, although I try hard to keep my tech and space-facts as accurate as possible. If you've read any of it, you know I concentrate on the plot, as well as on character development and emotions. I do toss in some action/adventure, a bit of romance ( not X-rated! ), an epic love story, mystery, and political intrigue.

So if you are one of those who has always thought science fiction isn't for you, you might think again. I'm sure there are books out there you'd not only enjoy, but come to love. Take my advice: don't judge a book solely by its genre. Read widely and don't be a book-snob!

Whatever you do, keep reading and keep on writing,

Monday, June 26, 2017

Some Tips for Indie Authors

As an independent author, I'm well aware of how difficult it is to sell and promote your books. Here are a few of the ideas I've come across or utilized during the past six plus years:

1.   Get some business cards; make sure they look attractive and professional. Offer one to everyone you meet.

2.   Visit libraries and book stores; tuck one of your business cards into books with genres similar to yours. ( ie: Romance, Sci-fi, etc. )

3.   Donate copies of your books to local libraries, and volunteer to speak about your book and your writing.

4.   Keep an eye out for author events such as book signings, panels, speaking engagements, etc. and sign up.

5.   Donate books to charity events such as raffles and auctions.

6.    Attend events related to your genre, including conventions, conferences, writing groups, comic cons, etc. Be prepared to do readings, be on panels, or to speak about your books.

7.   Investigate the possibility of speaking at book clubs, local colleges and schools.

8.   Post flyers about any events that you are going to attend or hold. Post online as well.

9.   When someone asks you what you do, be prepared to give a concise explanation of your work. Hint: Do not be long-winded--that's the kiss of death!

10.  Trade books with other authors, preferably of similar genres, with the promise to review each others work. Caution: many people will renege on their promise!

11.  Do not be tempted to buy reviews! Readers can spot a phony miles away. It makes you look bad!

Of course, not all of your efforts will succeed, but these tips are well worth a try. See what works for you. Keep trying; keep thinking; most of all, keep writing!


Friday, January 27, 2017

A Never-Ending Story?

For fifty years now, I've lived with the main characters of my Tartarus Trilogy. Over that time I've come to know them pretty well, perhaps better than I know some of my own family members! And I must admit that I've grown very attached to Rona Scott, Malkis of Tartarus, Richard Hughes, and Kalom of Eris.

My first published book, Judgment on Tartarus, was a scifi adventure about a young woman who always dreamed of a career in space. The story grew out of my love for science fiction and space exploration. ( I always hoped we'd have a base on Mars by now--or at least on Luna! ) My interest in Greek myths definitely influenced the story, and it was also my way of protesting bigotry against "others": anyone who is different in appearance, culture, beliefs, etc.

As the young woman who is the main protagonist in Book One became drawn into galactic events beyond her control, my characters refused to allow the story to end there. The novel was intended to be a stand-alone tale, but a sequel, True Son of Tartarus, was born. Before Book Two was ever published, I realized that my characters had even more of a tale to tell, and thus Ransom of Tartarus came to be.

After a long, frustrating road, the entire trilogy was published, and I breathed a sigh of relief as I pursued another novel entirely. Then one of my readers planted a seed in my imagination. She wondered how my characters first met, what was their backstory. So I was soon off and writing a prequel to the Trilogy: Malkis of Tartarus. Now as that novel ( which will be my first YA ) nears completion, I shudder to recall a woman once asking me at one of my signings: "Is this one of those never-ending sagas?"

Well, I certainly hope not! But who knows what lies in wait.

Thanks for reading, and keep on writing!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Happy 50th Anniversary, Star Trek!

I count myself one of the original fans of Star Trek; I fell in love with Trek the instant I saw TV Guide's Fall Preview issue and couldn't wait to see the first episode. Not only did I watch the first, but every episode thereafter of TOS!

Happily-hooked on Star Trek, I attended the first Star Trek convention in New York City. I had the pleasure of meeting Gene Roddenberry and Majel Barrett. They were dumbfounded at the number of fans who showed up.

Later, my friends and I got involved in "Deluge Monday", a nefarious plan to inundate CBS with mail protesting Trek's cancellation. I don't know whether DM worked or not, but Star Trek stayed on the air for two more years. And because of my involvement with fandom, I made the acquaintance of fellow fans all over the country. I attended SF conventions in Toronto, New York, San Francisco, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. I had the great privilege of meeting famous science fiction authors such as Isaac Asimov, Hal Clement, and Ben Bova, among others.

I had always loved science fiction; now, I became addicted to it. I read widely and eventually got up the nerve to start writing my own stuff. I'd been writing for many years, but my first attempt at an SF novel eventually morphed into Judgment on Tartarus, my first published book, and the first of a trilogy.

Fifty years later, I'm still an avid Star Trek fan ( I prefer the term Trekker to Trekkie, but we won't get into that here! ) I owe that TV show so much; it literally changed my life!

So let's celebrate Star Trek's 50th anniversary. May it go on forever! And please feel free to let me know how Trek influenced your life.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Another Great Comic Con!

Once again hubby and I manned a booth at Northeast Comic Con, Summer Edition ( June 18&19 ), held as usual at Shriners Auditorium in Wilmington MA ( right off Rt. 93 ) We aren't professional collectors; collecting is strictly a hobby with us. And as the author of four published science fiction/ space adventure novels, I also sell my books. This gives me a great opportunity to discuss my work with readers and scifi fans.

Across the aisle from us was a booth dedicated to Doctor Who, complete with a life-sized "Ood" ( If you aren't a fan, look that up.) Everyone who came by had to have their picture taken with the Ood! Then "Who" should roll by but a realistic, talking Dalek. Quite a surprise!

This year's celebrity guests included Mickey Dolenz of Monkees fame and Barry Bostwick ( Rocky Horror Picture Show, etc. ) We're usually too busy for celebrity-spotting, but we did manage to get a glimpse of Reb Brown, the original Captain America, in full costume.

There were costumes galore: lots of Doctor Whos, a Batman or two, a Superman, Darth Vader, Ghostbusters, Ghostrider, Deadpool, The Joker, Indiana Jones, Aladdin, Ariel, etc., etc. It's a lot of fun to see how much effort goes into making these costumes so realistic. But for me the highlight was meeting a dead-ringer for Chris Hemsworth; I admired his beautiful Thor costume, and we chatted for some time. When he left, he shook my hand--almost as good as shaking hands with the real Thor! I loved it!

We also met a couple guys from the Star Trek Association of the Northeast who are planning a Trek convention in NY. Of course, we were excited to hear that. It's been a long time since we were able to attend a Star Trek con!

As usual, we partook of Wild Bill's Soda Stand--always excellent. We got into a discussion with a fellow Babylon 5 fan. If you've never seen this TV show, you need to check it out. Excellent scifi with a superb cast. It seems to be undergoing a resurgence of popularity.

We made many people very happy with their purchases from our booth; one young lady in particular was ecstatic to get her hands on a Katniss doll ( Hunger Games.) A gentleman was eager to purchase a book on John Wayne; he and my hubby are both huge fans of the Duke! And kids are always happy to get a new toy.

We're already committed to Northeast Comic Con's Winter Edition ( Dec. 3&4 ) and this time we're planning a big celebration of Star Trek's 50th Anniversary. We have collectibles of all kinds, from jewelry to scripts, records to costumes. As a huge Trek fan, I can't wait. Also, Dean Cain ( Superman in Lois and Clark ) will be appearing!

Maybe we'll see some of you there. Keep on reading and keep on writing!


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

What's In A Name?

   A major challenge all fiction writers encounter is that of naming our characters. Choosing the right name for each individual is important, even vital. A name is the first indication of who your character is. A name gives hints to his/her personality, background, attitudes, etc. For instance, readers would expect a character named Tootsie to be far different from one named Carstairs.

   One baby-naming book famously advised that if you want your son or daughter to go into law enforcement, for heaven's sake don't name him or her Rob or Robyn Banks! I realize that I may be a bit more aware of the impact of a name. When I was a kid, some of my classmates were saddled with unfortunate names. There was a girl named Jessie James and boys who were named Peter Abbot and Paul Lockwood. ( If you don't get it, say those last two aloud, fast! )

So where do I look for appropriate names for my characters? Sometimes a suitable name just pops into my head; at other times I search through one of the above-mentioned baby name books. Believe it or not, I've also searched old cemeteries looking for unique or outdated names. I once came across a man named Dearbun Blackwell who died in the 1700s, and a woman named Sadilla. ( No, I haven't used either of those names, so feel free! )

Other common resources are phone books, TV and movie credits, history books, and magazines such as The National Geographic. I would suggest Googling a name before using it to make sure you don't inadvertently use the name of a living individual who might object to the hijacking of his/her name!

To  give you a concrete example of how I name my characters, in my current WIP I have a boy named Hiro Orion Watenabe. Yikes, that's a mouthful! It gives the impression of a rather dull, stodgy character. But I quickly bestow the nickname "Howie" upon him, which is more in line with his true personality: an informal, light-hearted goofball!

So don't be afraid to have fun naming your characters. Be thoughtful; be playful. After all, they are your "babies!"

Keep reading and keep on writing!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Case of the Disappearing Cons

   This year the after-holidays blahs set in with a vengeance. This was due to several factors. At this time of year hubby and I start looking forward to attending our favorite conventions, usually scifi or other related genres.

   First, we learned that Pi-con ( Enfield CT ) would not continue. It was a small con we greatly enjoyed attending. Our fond memories of Pi-con include the extra night we spent after the con due to Hurricane Irene. We had fun at the impromptu panels held for those who stayed over.

   Then, due to circumstances beyond our control related to hubby's job, we discovered that we'd be unable to attend Readercon for the forseeable future. Bummer! We've gone to Readercon ( Burlington MA ) faithfully for many years now. We enjoyed the venue, the people, the panels and other activities. We were especially fond of the notorious "Bad Prose" contest. It was hilarious!

    Next, we found out that AnthoCon 5 ( Portsmouth NH ) had been canceled; we were devastated! We went to every AnthoCon since it began. The con was very good to us, and we met some of the nicest human beings on the face of the planet.

   In spite of our terrible disappointment, we look for bright spots in the year ahead. Of course, there will be both the Spring and Winter editions of Northeast Comic Con, ( Wilmington MA ) and we are interested in Megafest ( Framingham MA )--another, larger Comic Con. Then, this week, I discovered online that a Harry Potter convention will be held in May of 2017 ( Laconia NH ) It's to be called MistiCon.

   Now, I am a huge fan of Harry Potter, both the book series and the movies. I love JK Rowling. So I have something to look forward to next year. Hubby is not a fan, but since he's long-suffering, I'm sure he'll go with me. In the meantime, we're keeping our eyes open for other local cons and our fingers crossed.

   Keep on reading and keep on writing!