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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Good Is Bad?

Recently, I read a quote on Twitter that made me stop and think: "Only bad writers think they're good!" While I can see some truth in this statement, I believe a good writer has a more objective point of view than a bad writer, who usually believes that even his/her worst stuff is great.

To be truly "good" a writer's work must meet a minimum standard by which it can be judged, such things as: grammar, punctuation, clarity of thought, originality, ease of dialog, characterization, continuity, etc. Lacking these, no work could truthfully be judged "good". But a bad writer usually can't see the flaws in his/her work and, therefore, thinks their writing is great. Unfortunately, if you can't recognize your flaws, you have no hope of correcting them.

Recognizing that my own work is "good" doesn't automatically assign my work to the category of "bad" writing. But neither do I dare equate myself with Hemingway or Asimov or any other great writer. I am competent, not great. I accept my writing for what it is. I enjoy writing; I work hard at it. I try to create the best stories I possibly can. And I hope that my readers enjoy them

All for now,


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Navigating the Glut

There's been a lot of lively debate lately on the internet, in blogs, on Twitter, and in SFF Mags about the "glut" of self-published and independently published books available today. Before this sweeping change, the major publishers were the "gatekeepers" to publication. They prevented a lot of "slush" from being published.

The down side? They also refused to publish many good books that were worthy of publication, but which weren't expected to make them a lot of money! Now publication is open to almost anyone. This is probably a good thing, but requires readers to be even more discriminating than they were before.

It is said that many of these first-time authors only had that one book in them and once it's out of their system we should see a slow-down of first-published works. At least that is the current theory making the rounds. I'm not so sure about this.

Going by my own personal experience, when I try a book by an author I've never read before and find it to be seriously lacking, I simply don't attempt to read anything else written by that author. I had such an experience this past year. I bought a book written by an established author---a well-known female writer who shall remain anonymous. Shortly after I began to read, I discovered that her work was, to me, overrated though competent. It wasn't at all to my tastes, which are fairly catholic. I had to stop reading. ( And, boy, was I glad I hadn't paid full price for that book! )

As a result, I certainly wouldn't be tempted any time soon to read another book she'd written. Now I realize that authors don't always strike the right note with every one of their books. Online, you can read a sample of an available book, and if you hate it---well, you realize where I'm going with this. I have heard of a couple readers who actually finished reading a book they absolutely hated, only to throw it across the room when done---or even into the trash can!

Do I want readers tossing either of my published Tartarus books? Heavens, no! I expect readers to be discriminating and intelligent enough to check out Amazon's Look Inside feature or to download a sample onto their Kindle before they buy. ( I've used both these tools and find them invaluable. )

To get people to buy my books, I'm never going to falsely claim that they are "bestsellers" or must-read classics. I prefer to let you judge for yourselves. Trust your own gut-instincts to sort through all the books available out there.

Keep on reading!


Thursday, October 20, 2011


There are still a few parts of The Tartarus Trilogy that, even after all the years of working on them, I can't read without getting all teary-eyed. Those scenes touch something deep within me, triggering an emotional response. I relate it to listening to a familiar piece of music that touches you so deeply you can't help but cry---every bloody time you hear it! For me, some of these musical pieces include Ave Maria, Danny Boy, Amazing Grace, Abide with Me, and May It Be ( from LOTR. )

I get that same instinctive emotional reaction to certain pieces of film as well: Boromir's death scene in The Fellowship of the Ring, the final scene with D'lenn and Sheridan's spirit in B5's "Sleeping in Light", Chris Eccleston's regeneration scene in Doctor Who, The Passion of the Christ, among many others.

No matter how many times I've viewed or listened to these tear-jerkers---no matter how determined I am NOT to cry this time!---get out the hankies! I just can't seem not to react. It's a purely emotional response, obviously not something I can control. Then I wonder why in the world I'd want to?

Our emotions are unique to each of us; they are part of who we are. What touches a deep chord in me may, in fact, leave you cold, and vice versa. Or we might just find that we share a similar emotional response---a wordless bond that needs no explanation.

Unfortunately, I've read a great many books, watched many TV shows and films that left me cold, with no emotional response whatsoever. I can't help thinking this doesn't bode well for the current state of those arts!

Hanky anyone?


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Kalom of Eris

One of my favorite non-major characters in the Tartarus Trilogy is Kalom of Eris. This young man is good-looking, friendly, informal ( which irritates Capt. Richard Hughes no end! ) and easy-going. Although Kalom was born on the planet Eris, one of the Thrasian race, he was raised on Terra. His father Koltok was the Thrasian Empire's Ambassador to Earth.

When his parents returned to Eris, Kalom rebelled and stayed behind. They, as well as most of his own people, now accuse him of being more Terran than Thrasian. Seeking adventure, the youth entered the Interstellar Space Service Academy in Houston, Texas, where he specialized in both Astrogation and Command.

At the start of the Trilogy, Kalom has served aboard the Interstellar Spacecraft Astrella II for eight years and has risen to the rank of Lt. Cmdr. As a result, he's now third-in-command of Astrella. Kalom is one of the few people aboard who don't actively despise Cmdr. Malkis of Tartarus, the ship's hard-nosed ExO. The easy-going Erisian just doesn't let much get to him, including the strict, acerbic Tartarian. He tells Rona Scott that Malkis is "okay as long as you obey regulations and stay on your toes!"

Kalom happens to be one darn good-looking guy: cafe-au-lait-colored skin, wavy red-gold hair, and perfectly-even features. His eyes mirror his moods, changing color from amber flecked with gold when he's happy to darker shades of brown, blue, or even violet when occasionally he's not so happy. As Tiko of Cytherea warns Rona, "Watch out for him, too!" Kalom is a real ladies' man; he enjoys a drink and a good time---but only when it's appropriate.

In both Books One and Two Kalom eventually proves his worth: he's a brave man who's not adverse to taking a few risks when necessary. His loyalty to Hughes and to his friends is unquestioned. All in all, Kalom of Eris is a good man to have in your corner in a dangerous situation.

I'd be very interested to hear your own assessment of Kalom.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Tooting My Own Horn

I'm not usually one to toot my own horn---however, when it comes to True Son of Tartarus, I'll make an exception: toot-toot! I ordered a copy of the Kindle version just to check out the quality, then sat down and read the whole thing, not the bits and pieces in which I'm used to reading during the editing process.

And the story literally blew my mind. Now I'm sure that most authors say that about their own book, whether or not it's strictly true, but I think I'm able to be a wee bit more objective about my work. I'm well aware that not everything I write is gold. I've abandoned a lot of my stuff that was sheer, unadulterated crap. But after re-reading True Son, I told one of my daughters, "This is the best 95,000 words I've ever written!"

And over the past nearly-forty years I've learned to trust my hubby's instincts---at least where books and film are involved. He loves True Son and insists it's the best book of the trilogy. Now my hubby is a voracious reader---if I lose him in a bookstore or a bookdealer's room at a con, he can be gone for hours! Our house is very nearly wall-to-wall books and DVDs---oh, and comic books and graphic novels as well.

Fortunately for me, he's brutally honest when it comes to my work. If it stinks, he'll tell me so in no uncertain terms. I've come to trust his opinion, though I accept the fact that our tastes and preferences often differ. But this time---and boy, do I hate to admit it!---I think he's right. I also trust my own gut. It tells me I have a winner here!

Still keeping my fingers crossed,


Saturday, October 15, 2011

An Alter Ego?

Basically, I'm a very shy, conservative person, soft-hearted and soft-spoken. I don't try to shock people. I detest confrontation, strong language, and violence of any sort---it's utterly abhorrent to me, leaves my psyche traumatized and lying in a puddle on the floor.

If so, you ask yourself, what could I possibly have been thinking when I wrote the character of Dar-kan hira-Gurd?

Okay, I realize that quite a few of my readers, especially those who know me personally, are going to be a bit shocked by True Son of Tartarus. This is one of those books where I find myself wondering, "Where the heck did this come from?" It seems totally against my nature.

But if it's true, as some maintain, that every character in a book represents some aspect of the author, then is Dar-kan truly a part of me? I sure hope not! She's despicable---a villain of the worst sort!---someone who'd as soon slit your throat as look at you, provided you were of no use to her.

In a way, I think Dar-kan is my polar-opposite. Can a writer be so aware of their own "dark side" that they can write about it? Perhaps; I don't remember hearing or reading any discussions of the subject by other writers, though I'm sure someone before me must have questioned it. The subject would make for an interesting discussion at an SFF convention. I'd certainly attend!

Any thoughts on the subject?


Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Mapless Quest

Not long after I graduated from Massachusetts College of Art, I became part of the SF community in the Boston area. I was fortunate enough to meet and get to know several famous writers, including Isaac Asimov and Hal Clement. At that time I was creating SF&F themed artwork and had some success in selling my work at conventions.

But being a writer at heart, I was inspired to give writing SF a shot. I had no illusions about trying to write hard SF or becoming another Asimov or Clement. As an avid proponent of space exploration, I came up with the germ of an idea for an SF novel, which was intended to be only a single book.

I envisioned a future universe in which individuals native to wildly different planets would be forced to interact with one another, cramped in the claustrophobic confines of a space vessel. As I began to flesh out the plot, I soon realized that "human" nature being what it was, these characters---contrary to most of the SF being produced at the time---weren't all going to like each other, tolerate each other, or get along!

Therefore, my book wasn't going to be a tale of some nicey-nicey cruise to explore alien planets. Rather, the crew of Astrella was going to include both good guys and bad guys, some heroes, some villains, the usual assortment of bigots, dunderheads, idealists, and just-average-joes.

Underlying themes included good versus evil, conflict between differing philosophies, prejudice, loyalty, friendship, honor, the nature of love, and holding onto one's values in spite of opposing pressure. Not at all what I started out to write!

Writing is a bit like setting out on a journey with no idea where you're going and with no map to guide you. You just go---and can find yourself ending up in some darn-interesting places!


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Good Book

Curling up with a good book, particularly in the dark and cold of Winter, is one of life's real pleasures. You can shut out the whole world for a time, forget your troubles. A good book is like a faithful friend who'll never desert you and always accomodates your schedule. It's there for you, morning, noon, or night---whenever you feel the need to read.

A book is patient. Just can't get to it? A good book will wait until you have time for it, won't get angry at being ignored, or stomp off in a huff---at least none of my books ever do! Can't vouch for all of 'em, of course.

A good book will be exactly the same next time you read it---you won't. In fact, you may find even deeper meaning the second or third time around. No matter how many times I've read The Lord of the Rings, I still find things to marvel at in its pages. Another good example of this: J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter books. If you've finished the series, I challenge you to start back at the beginning. I guarantee you'll find surprising hints and clues you missed the first time through---or even the second! Always the sign of a good writer.

Make the acquaintance of a really good book---or reacquaint yourself with one.


Monday, October 10, 2011

A Glimpse Into the Future

If nothing interferes with my plans, I'm hoping ---hope, hope!---that Ransom of Tartarus will be ready to send to the publisher by the end of this year. But at the rate the publication process moves, Ransom could possibly be published in May of 2012, maybe if I'm lucky, a bit before! I'm looking forward to the completion of The Tartarus Trilogy.

But the other day my daughter Sharyn asked me what I intend to do when all three books have been published. My answer: "Get Galaxy Rand ready for publication!" That novel is sheer, unabashed space opera with a cast of quirky characters. I've been working on Galaxy off and on for quite a few years now. I frequently manage to lose the whole manuscript---buried under piles of other writing or swallowed up by the Twilight Zone. So only the first two chapters have actually been typed. Then when I rediscover what I've written, I get excited all over again!

Of course, since Galaxy's still in a pretty rough stage, the ms is going to require a lot of work for some time to come. But writing it is great fun; it's a radical departure from the "soft" SF of my Tartarus books; it gives me a break so I don't get bored with those characters and that world.

And I hope my readers will never get bored with them either!

All for now,


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Lovely October!

Despite the fact that I still have a terrible cold that gave me a lovely case of laryngitis, October is my favorite month.And Fall is my favorite season. Crisp air, colorful leaves, ducks and geese on their way south---love it all. I especially love picking ripe apples right off the tree and baking apple pies and apple crisps. Yum! And I can hardly wait to pick a fat orange pumpkin to carve.

I love farm stands in general, but when they're decorated with squash and pumpkins and colorful pots of chrysanthemums---ah, it is to die for! I always look forward to Halloween to wrap up the month ( my hubby's favorite holiday! ) The grandkids go trick-or-treating dressed as Spiderman, or ninjas, Power Rangers or Green Lantern! I love it!

Can't say I love Winter here, though---not my favorite season. Too much snow and ice, even though it can be pretty. But I would never want to live anywhere but New England. I manage to get through it looking foraward to Spring: flowers, birds, green leaves. Sigh!

Love October while it lasts!


Friday, October 7, 2011

Too Much To Do!

Believe me, blogging is more difficult when you're suffering with a really rotten cold like the one I have. My head's not working quite right; I can barely breathe or swallow. I know it will pass in a few days or so, but right now I have so doggone much to do that feeling lousy is very, very inconvenient.

Deadlines are looming: Trips to the Post Office must be made; Anthocon advertising must be taken care of; Book marketing plans must be made. Some of the little good news is that in a few days True Son will be up and running on Kindle. Maybe by then Amazon will have the cover pic up, and if I'm really lucky, the Look Inside feature will be functioning---both very important.

And as soon as I'm feeling up to it, there's Halloween decorating to be done, Christmas shopping to start, and getting ready for the slew of family birthdays in Oct./ early Nov.

So much to be done---so little time! Alas, I need to get well fast!


Monday, October 3, 2011

Editing, Editing!

I've finally reached Chapter 31 in my editing of Ransom of Tartarus. Only four more chapters to go! And possibly a couple new scenes to be inserted in places that seem to beg for a little extra. Sometimes in the heat of writing, a gap is left that needs to be filled later. Usually this isn't a big deal. And some minor continuity problems may crop up and have to be dealt with.

These are good reasons for self-editing your work. No other editor has the right "feel" for my books; what may seem important/insignificant to that person, no matter how skilled they may be, may not be so to me.And it is, after all, my work. My name goes on my novels---not theirs.

Here's a small "for instance": Since the Adz-tzl, the Holy Scepter of the Law, plays a significant role at the end of Book 2, I had to make darn sure that it was mentioned, described,and it's purpose explained early on in the book. If I hadn't done so, readers would've justifiably responded: "Huh?"

The one exception to resorting to an outside editor is that your English skills aren't up to par, and in this case an editor can save you loads of embarrassment!

Hope to be home from NH late Weds. Take care all.



Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A True Surprise!

I had a wonderful surprise yesterday: Fed Ex dropped off a huge box containing my author's copies of True Son of Tartarus---over a week early. Love it when that happens! How many things we wait for actually come early? Of course, I immediately thumbed through one copy, just to make sure everything was there---like a new parent anxiously counting a baby's fingers and toes!

Though I must say that the cover of True Son isn't quite as spectacular as the cover of Judgment, it does match its style, as I requested. And it's a huge step up from the first two cover designs, which I flat-out refused to accept.

The best thing about the publication of True Son is that now two books of the trilogy will be available online. And even those who've never read Judgment on Tartarus can get into True Son, since it's meant to stand alone as well as being part of a trilogy. A select few people who are my truest fans will shortly receive a free copy. The rest of my readers will be delighted to know that the standard cover price is only $16.95, while the Kindle version will be the usual $9.99 ( as soon as it's up and running, hopefully in another week or two. )

Lots of online booksellers will be carrying True Son of Tartarus at various discounts, so checking prices online is always a good idea. Now I'm anxious to find out how readers receive this book---love it, hate it, find it so-so? Fair warning that it is just a bit more adult than Book One was.

Keeping my fingers crossed that True Son is a success,


P. S. I'm now editing Chapter 26 of the final installment of The Tartarus Trilogy: Ransom of Tartarus, which will be published in 2012.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Royalty Riches?

After receiving my first royalty check for Judgment on Tartarus, I can tell you one thing for darn sure: I'm never going to get rich by writing! Of course, I really didn't expect to, and I feel sorry for anyone who truly expects to become a millionaire overnight because of their writing. ( If I had a day job, I certainly wouldn't quit! )

The real rewards of writing aren't monetary. Writing novels isn't the way to make a fast, easy buck. If you don't love to write, you shouldn't try writing professionally---it's just not for you. ( Unfortunately, a lot of people these days believe they're capable of writing a hot bestseller! )

The raw, unvarnished truth is that only 1% of books published sell 250,000 copies or more. And authors receive a mere pittance for every copy sold. With the growing popularity of e-books, as well as other devices for reading, authors make an even smaller amount from each e-book sold, further lowering their royalty income.

Publishers complain that they aren't making a profit on most books they publish, can no longer afford to pay authors advances, or even to publicize their books! Short story markets are drying up at an alarming rate. Many magazines that used to publish fiction ---even online magazines!---have ceased publication. The future for authors of fiction, in particular, looks rather bleak.

We can only hope that a) the lousy U.S. economy improves markedly---soon!---and b) the generations coming up will become/remain avid readers. In my opinion the future of books of all kinds, magazines, publishers, and authors depends heavily upon these two factors.

Please---keep on reading!


Monday, September 26, 2011

Waiting For True Son

At present I'm still waiting. True Son of Tartarus has gone to the printer to be made into paperback books---something tangible, something I can hold in my hands and say is my creation, a treat for the intellect ( I sincerely hope! ) True Son is currently being formatted for the Kindle edition as well. That should be available in 2-3 weeks ( at $9.99.)

Once I do a final edit and approve a book for publication, it is then literally out of my hands. I have no say in pricing or how much time it takes for one of my books to become available. That's up to the publisher and printer, not me.

Right now I'm trying my best to wait patiently---at least as patiently as I can! I'm concentrating on editing Book Three: Ransom of Tartarus, which will be the final book of the Tartarus Trilogy. My author's sample copies of True Son are scheduled to ship Oct. 5th and might actually arrive by that date if I'm lucky.

I wrote the original draft of True Son in the late 1980s and have worked on it, polished it, revised it, off and on over the last twenty or more years. Now that I'm this close to publication, I have to remind myself to be patient: I've waited a long time to achieve this goal, so I can certainly wait a few weeks more!

All for now,


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Stubborn As A Taurus

Although I don't generally put much stock in astrology, my astrological sign is Taurus, and one of my major character flaws/strengths is stubbornness. So they at least got that one right. Strangely enough, though, I find being stubborn a great advantage when you're a professional writer.

Sticking with a project day in and day out, perhaps for years---especially if it's not going well---is dang tough. Many days you just want to give up and chuck the whole blasted kit-and-kaboodle out the nearest window ( or in my case, in the trash can! ) But I've learned over the years that if you are stubborn enough to persist, to struggle on despite problems, miraculously, you eventually find solutions to those problems.

I don't remember at this moment who said that invention ( or success ) is fifty per cent inspiration and fifty per cent perspiration. How true! So in spite of my infrequent down days, when I wonder why the heck I ever took up writing in the first place, I keep on slogging away at my current project. I know in my heart that I'd rather be writing than doing almost anything else in the entire Universe!

All for now,


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Musical Inspiration

For inspiration I frequently write to musical accompaniment. I choose a piece that suits the mood of whatever I'm working on at the moment. For instance, if it's a battle scene, I'll choose something martial, loaded with excitement, danger, or valor. If I'm writing something solemn, I might pick a slow, classical piece, maybe a selection from The Lord of the Rings albums, or an aria sung by Jackie Evancho or The Priests.

I also love writing to the soundtrack from Eclipse, the third Twilight Saga movie; it's hip and upbeat and fast-paced. Some of my other favorites are Celtic in origin, more sad and soulful. Music helps me get into the mood I'm trying to evoke, capture it on paper as best I can; sometimes, I just close my eyes and envision a scene. Often, I use music to help me get into the head of one of my characters, to feel what he or she is feeling.

Music also helps me to relax, yet keep my mind in the game. I imagine it would prove helpful if ever I come down with a case of writer's block! I'd certainly give it a try. Music, like any art  form, like a good book, enriches life and makes it more full and meaningful.

All for now---must get back to my editing. Think I'll do it to music!


Monday, September 19, 2011

Comedy Rules!

Since people seemed to enjoy my last attempt at humor, prepare yourself for more of my favorite jokes/funny stuff!

What is brown and wrinkled and lives in a belltower?  The lunchbag of Notre Dame, of course!

Two drunks were staggering down a dock at the ocean, counting the spaces between the boards as they went. When they came to the end of the dock, both walked right off it and into the drink. The moral of the story: when you're out of slits, you're out of pier!

Announcements found in an actual church bulletin: The subject of this morning's sermon: Jesus Walks on Water. This evening's sermon: Searching for Jesus.

And here's one I stole from damnyouautocorrect: "Is it formal unicorn for Monday?" ( Don't know about you, but I always dress up my unicorn on Mondays! )

Okay, I know I have a twisted sense of humor; the sillier, the cornier, the more outrageous, the more I giggle. Got a good one ( if it's not filthy! ) let me know.

All for now,


Sunday, September 18, 2011

More Good Advice

Still thinking along the lines of sound advice to offer beginning writers, I remembered some of the biggest mistakes I made early on. First, I was so darn anxious to have Judgment on Tartarus published that I sent out the ms. long before it was truly ready for publication. My work was too amateurish at that point, but I was so excited about my story that I overlooked its flaws.

Instead of letting my work "rest", then going back over it with a fine-tooth comb and fixing it, I rushed it off to a publisher. Nowadays, writers rush out to publish an e-book! Looking back now, I can see all too clearly why no publisher would take on Judgment. The story was good ( and remains so to this day ), but I hadn't done a good enough job of telling the story, of editing and refining my work. Had Judgment been published in that condition, I would've been highly embarrassed. I'm afraid that many of today's young and eager writers are going to look back upon their early work, shudder, and groan!

As a writer, you want to put yourself in the best possible light. Instead of bragging that you published a book, I want you to be able to brag that your book is the absolute BEST you could possibly write and never regret publishing it.

The second piece of advice I'd give you is don't discourage easily---another huge mistake I made. After several rejections and one near-publication of my second novel, True Son of Tartarus, I gave up. What I didn't realize until much later was that my book wasn't to blame for the rejections. True Son is also a good story, but---for whatever reason: budget constraints, timing, inappropriate genre, etc.---the major publishers weren't going to go out on a limb to publish an unknown author.

So if you're getting nothing but rejections from publishers, you first need to take a long, hard look at your work. If you can honestly say it's a good book, worthy of and ready for publication, keep on plugging and don't let yourself get discouraged.

I think the two worst mistakes a writer can make are publishing your work before it's up to par and giving up on it too quickly.

As they say, a word to the wise...


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Advice for Writers

Here's a bit of sound advice for beginning writers:

1) Study the language in which you write, whether English or not.
2) As a general rule, don't write exactly the way you speak---most of us don't speak our language correctly!
3) Learn the rules of punctuation and grammar, and don't depend on your memory!
4) Also, don't depend on "spell-check"---ie: two, too, and to are all spelled correctly, but which form is the one you want?
5) Double and triple check your ms. for errors. Unfortunately, no matter how many times you check or how well you check, mistakes do manage to slip by!
6) Make sure no words have accidentally been omitted.
7) If the names of your characters, places, etc. are unpronounceable or draw snickers from your first reader, change them!
8) Check the meaning of words with your dictionary or thesaurus; it's not only embarrassing to use the wrong word, but it may also make your work laughable.
9) Make perfectly clear to what or to whom your pronouns refer. This error can be downright, head-scratching confusing!
10) Remember: "that" and "which" should not be used interchangeably ( admittedly one of my most frequent faults! )
11) Analyze your story to make sure the plot makes perfect sense, and not only to you! Is it told in an intelligible order? Have you made errors in continuity? Does each "scene" serve a purpose and advance the plot or is it unnesscessary?

In conclusion ( yay! ), I highly recommend turning your precious ms. over to an impartial first reader for a totally honest critique. To quote my first reader of a rough draft of Judgment on Tartarus: "This fight scene sounds more like they're dancing!" Alas, that was all too true!

Instead of getting your hackles up or bursting into tears, go to work to remedy your weaknesses. That's the only way to improve; that's how you become a darn good writer.

Take it from someone who is still learning every day,


Friday, September 16, 2011

Life Is Tweet!

I've been "tweeting" on Twitter for a bit now. My followers usually number from 15-18 or so. They come and go; some obviously were spammers, so I don't miss them at all. I follow around 100 people, magazines, publishers, etc. However, at this point I'm concentrating on attracting more followers, which isn't exactly easy to do. Many people still don't go into the Twitter site, and my site in particular is geared mostly to science fiction and fantasy. It's a good source for me to get the latest news on conventions, publications, upcoming TV shows and movies, NASA activities, etc.

If you are already on Twitter, or are feeling brave enough to venture onto the site ( ) you can choose who to follow, and often they'll follow you in return. It's a little like facebook; you can keep track of your friends or personalities you enjoy. Logging in is easy---just type in your e-mail address and a password and you're in.

The only real limitation on Twitter is that your "tweets" must be 140 characters or under. The site will tell you if you go over that and give you a chance to edit your tweets. So give it a go if you haven't already.

Hope to see you on Twitter!


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

One Must Have One's BBC

If you haven't yet caught the BBC shows "Sherlock" and "Being Human", you're missing a couple of treats! I recommend you try them both; they're available on DVD.

"Sherlock" is a present-day take on the iconic detective. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Sherlock, a much younger, though still quirky character. Martin Freeman plays his faithful, hapless sidekick, Dr. Watson. As an aside, Freeman will take on the role of Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson's film version of The Hobbit. Took me a while to connect the name with the actor, but I was thrilled to death when I did! Believe me, Martin Freeman will make the perfect Bilbo, better even than the incredible Ian Holm.

"Sherlock" is modern, funny, and fast-paced. The main character appears to be much more active, due to a more physical actor, than the usual media conception of Holmes, though I adored Jeremy Brett in the role. Cumberbatch brings much of the endearing qualities of Brett's Holmes.

The music for this show ( and I wish I could recall the name of the composer, dang it! ) is absolutely perfect, an upbeat, modern, toe-tapping theme that, oddly enough, reminds me of belly-dancing music.

"Being Human" is about a young woman's ghost who ends up living with a hot, young vampire full of angst and a young man who's a werewolf and still coming to terms with what he's become. It's a riot, but can also be chilling. All three principles are engaging, sympathetic characters. And by the by, Aidan Turner, who plays the vampire, Mitchell, will also play a role as one of the dwarves in The Hobbit movies!

I cannot wait to see The Hobbit, Parts 1&2. According to PJ, it's going to be a couple years at least! Ah, well---in the meantime I think you'll definitely find it worthwhile to check out "Sherlock" and "Being Human".

God bless the BBC!


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Breaking Dawn Trailer

Just saw the new trailer for the final Twilight movie, Breaking Dawn, Pt. 1, and I have to admit that I loved it; the movie looks like it's going to be a lot of fun. It seems to be pretty true to the book, which is a long one, therefore the two parts to the movie.

Now I'm well aware that Twilight, both the books and the movies, are controversial and won't appeal  to everyone---does anything? But there's something about the underlying theme that grabs me. I guess you'd categorize me as a hopeless romantic. My hubby, however, HATES that the saga makes heroes of the vampires, which are some of his all-time favorite villains. I can sympathize with that. If someone were to come along and turn my favorite hero into a bad guy, I'd probably be P.O.ed. It's sort of like Star Trek making good guys out of some of the Borg!

But in the Twilight Saga, not all vampires are good guys, and not all werewolves are bad guys. And I find the heroine authentic, vulnerable, and touchingly human. I can identify with her, her feelings of being an outcast, awkward, clumsy, and somehow out of her element. I can understand why Bella would want to become a vampire like her beloved Edward and his family, who now totally accept her.

But I realize that there are several issues that some readers/viewers despise, such as vampires who can walk around in broad daylight ( as long as the sun isn't out! ), who sparkle in the sunlight ( okay, even I have to admit that's a little on the hokey side! ), and who are "vegetarians" and therefore only drink animal blood---BIG YUCK there!

To sum up, do I consider the Twilight books in the same category as J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter? No, I don't, but I can still appreciate Stephenie Myer's books for what they are. And I certainly don't expect everyone to agree with my humble opinions. To each his own, eh?

Twihards rule!


Monday, September 12, 2011

WOM Advertising

According to a recent blog written by David Gaughran, word of mouth advertising is not only the best form of advertising, it's also the cheapest! Fellow authors and other creative folk out there, think about this! With the internet, blogging, facebook, twitter, etc., we now have direct avenues to fans of our work like no previous generation in history. We don't have to spend a fortune to reach potential customers.

Yes, websites cost money, as does webvertising, but much of what we can do online is free of cost, so why not utilize it to the max? This isn't always easy to do---I know because I've tried. Simply finding/ getting into a discussion group can be frustrating, but if you do manage to get a foot in the door, so to speak, you have a ready-made audience. Just make sure to target them appropriately.

One of the secrets to word of mouth advertising I've found is to start with the people who know you and your work---your friends, your family, co-workers, the people you are in contact with on facebook, etc. If they like you and enjoy what you do, you have a team in place eager to advertise your "product", whatever that may be.

Whether you like or dislike something, it's human nature to "spread the word". And as David points out, people are much more likely to take advice on reading, music, etc. from someone they know and trust. That's why I always ask my readers, if they like my book, to recommend it to others.

This strategy may take a while to produce results, since it's also human nature to put off doing things, even pleasant things, like reading a good book or seeing a good movie. We're all guilty of doing that. But keep on plugging and don't give up. Hopefully, all your efforts will pay off eventually---and not in a purely monetary way. ( If you want to get rich, DON'T become a writer! )

Keep on WOMing!


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Male vs Female?

Recently I caught an interesting discussion on the website of SFX Magazine ( UK ), re: the imbalance between their reviews of books written by male authors as opposed to those written by women authors. A rather lively discussion ensued, some of which I subscribe to, and some, I do not.

Traditionally in genre fiction, male writers have outnumbered female for a great variety of reasons. The ratio, however, currently stands around 55% to 45%. This is probably more even than it has ever been. But I do believe that CERTAIN male readers/reviewers ( not all! ) still exhibit a sexist bias, perhaps subconsciously.

This is one reason that I joined the Broad Universe Literary Coalition. The aim of this organization, which is not limited to women, is to promote the work of female authors, especially in regard to genre fiction: fantasy, science fiction, horror, etc. I've never heard of any organization devoted to the promotion of male authors, have you? One doesn't seem to be necessary.

Personally, I've observed a few male readers who picked up a book, briefly scanned the back blurb, realized it was written by a woman, and promptly rejected it without further investigation! ( There may also be women who do the same with a book written by a man, but I've never personally observed reverse bias. ) People like this, of either gender, do female writers a gross injustice by assuming that no woman could write as well as a man---or write a book that THEY could be interested in. How far from the truth!

There are plenty of women authors out there who write fascinating science fiction, heroic fantasy, gritty urban fantasy, horror that would curl your toes, and bloody crime fiction, These aren't pieces you would stereotypically expect to be written by "ladies"! I've read a great many books by male authors; never once have I assumed that I couldn't be interested in a book written by a man. Am I equally interested in books written by any and all female authors? Of course not.

To coin a phrase here, don't judge a book by the gender of its author. Open the dang thing and actually read a few pages before you dismiss a book!

All the pulpit-thumping for now,


Friday, September 9, 2011

A Blurb Blog

Here's one version of my early, longer attempts at creating a backcover blurb for Judgment on Tartarus. This synopsis had to be condensed considerably to fit the backcover.

Come aboard the retired battle cruiser Astrella II with idealistic young Ensign Corona Scott as she begins the adventure fated to change her life forever---as well as that of the entire known-Galaxy. Assigned to her first deep-space mission, Rona Scott soon begins to fear that her long-dreamed-of career is in serious jeopardy.

Her new CO, Richard Hughes---the legendary "Hero of the Gorgonian Wars"---has a hair-trigger temper and no sympathy for green crewmembers. His strict ExO, Malkis of Tartarus, lets Rona know right from the start that he has no use for Terran females. Rona is further dismayed to discover that Astrella is a hot-bed of gossip, racial hatred, prejudice, and diabolical intrigue. She struggles to maintain her own high ideals, to keep an open mind, despite the mounting pressure to give in to the prevailing attitude.

The situation aboard Astrella gets progressively worse: a science mission is sabotaged; someone hates the Tartarian ExO badly enough to attempt to kill him; and with no explanation High Command dispatches Astrella to the planet Tartarus. Along the way, the ship is attacked by an old enemy---the dreaded Gorgonians---whose ships haven't been seen for over twelve years.

When Astrella reaches Tartarus, things go from bad to worse. There, Rona Scott is forced to make some life-altering decisions---and the fate of Astrella's captain and crew rests upon the barbaric, bloody outcome of a challenge to mortal combat!

That was it. Believe me, condensing all that verbage to fit into the limited space on a novel's backcover isn't exactly easy. Some things have to be left out; some hard choices have to be made. To see what I mean, compare this with the finished blurb as listed on's Judgment on Tartarus page!

All for now,


Thursday, September 8, 2011

DVD Mania

My hubby and I own a vast collection of DVDs, probably numbering in the thousands. Some of our all-time favorites series include: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, CSI, Lost, Babylon 5, Farscape, Doctor Who ( from the very oldest to the newest! ), True Blood, Legend of the Seeker, and Blood Ties. You'll of course note that these are heavy on the fantasy and SF titles.

Hubby also has his own private collection of superhero movies, cartoons, anime, and really OLD horror movies, such as Frankenstein, Dracula, the Mummy, etc. He loves them so much that he can watch them over and over again; I cannot. That is why we have two TVs on the first floor within a few feet of each other!

The DVDs closest to my heart include The Lord of the Rings movies, the entire Harry Potter series ( which I hope to complete this Christmas ) and my collection of my beloved Survivor DVDs. That TV show is a weakness of mine. As a kid, I used to dream about being a castaway on a desert island in the Pacific and having to survive on my own. Naturally, Robinson Crusoe and Swiss Family Robinson were among my favorite books.

My study of psychology and sociology in college led me to a fascination with human interaction and motivation, in addition to the survival aspects. So tease me if you will, I'll always love Survivor. The show has also confirmed my fears that modern humans have lost touch with nature, have lost respect for its dangers, and are woefully ignorant of its benefits.

Ah, well! That's a subject for another day! The tribe has spoken.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Waiting Game

I'm waiting as patiently as I can for True Son of Tartarus to be published and available to my readers. That's one of the hardest parts of the publishing process, at least for me. I'm always anxious to find out if my next book will appeal to people as much as Book 1 did. I've done my darnedest to make True Son as good as Judgment ( if not better! ), as good as I possibly can while remaining true to myself, my beliefs, my goals.

 For instance, for those who are fans of gritty, militaristic SF with loads of violence and bloodbaths---sorry, but you'll have to look elsewhere. You just aren't going to find those elements in either Judgment on Tartarus or True Son of Tartarus. I have no illusions that every single reader is going to react favorably to my work. Each individual has their own literary tastes. But I truly believe a large audience will appreciate the stories I write.

Of course, some may find them a bit too violent for their tastes; others, not violent enough. Some may find them a bit offensive while others think they're not graphic enough. Obviously, I can never please absolutely everyone, so, as the old saying goes, I have to be true to myself. And as long as I do that I'll be happy with my work---just impatient with the amount of time it takes to learn your reaction!

All for now,


Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Bit of a Breather

Now that True Son of Tartarus has been finished and left in the capable hands of the publisher and the printer, I am taking a bit of a breather, which doesn't mean that I'm not writing/editing---just that I'm under less pressure than usual. I've already begun the process of editing Ransom of Tartarus, which will be Book 3 of the trilogy; as soon as True Son becomes available online, I intend to start the whole publication process over once again.

If things go smoothly ( and they often do not! ) "Ransom" could be published as early as February of 2012. I just have to work hard and keep my fingers crossed. There's a lot to be done in that short time. Fortunately, Ransom has already been written, and I'm happy with it; it's been transferred to my laptop, made into a hard copy, and edited somewhat. But it still needs a final edit, transfer to a USB, layout, proofs and corrections of proofs, and coming up with a satisfactory cover design ( which can take 2-3 tries! )

As you can imagine, this all takes time and patience---even in the age of e-mails, pdfs, and priority mail! At this time I have no intention of succumbing to the temptation to turn the trilogy into a "series", as many authors have done---unless you count the creation of two prequels as making this into a series. Do I know how the story ends many, many years into the future? I do---but that telling is a very long way away!

All for now,

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Preview of Things to Come

True Son of Tartarus should be published within the next few weeks. But for those of you who just can't wait, here's a brief preview from a chapter titled "Damned to Hell":

   He was back at the ISS Academy again---on Terra---seated cross-legged upon the hard, narrow bunk in his quarters. The computer readout-arm extended before him, he was engrossed in his astronautical-engineering text when a loud, bold knock at the door disturbed his concentration. The door was pushed open.
   A dark-haired young Terran male poked his head into the room. "Howie Watenabe here?"
   Without speaking, Malkis shook his head in the negative---a perfunctory gesture.
   The Terran stepped inside, uninvited---as far as Malkis was concerned, a supreme act of rudeness.
   "You his roomie?" the young man demanded.
   Malkis bristled and stared blankly at the intruder without deigning to reply. A foolish question, he thought, typically Terran!
   "Mind if I come in?" the Terran asked belatedly.
   Now Malkis scowled at him in outright annoyance. "It would appear to me that you are already 'in'," he said brusquely, hoping that this obnoxious Terran would take a polite hint and leave him to study in peace.
   Instead, the young man gawked around the cramped quarters with brazenly-undisguised Terran inquisitiveness. "No bigger than mine," he noted aloud. "The room, I mean. Hell, wouldn't you think the star-blasted brass could spare us cadets a little more space? Feels like we're confined to a flaring cage, doesn't it?"
   Malkis studiously ignored this brash intruder with the abominable lack of manners, but the smiling Terran drew offensively close, cornering Malkis. "I'm Hughes," he offered, sticking out his hand. "Richard---but my friends call me Hugh. And you must be Malkis of Tartarus."
   Malkis recoiled, staring at the proffered hand, as if this "Hughes" were a known-carrier of the Lamidian plague. He made no move to take the Terran's hand. "Since I am the only Tartarian cadet enrolled here, I would think the answer rather obvious."
   Hughes shrugged off the rude refusal of his hand. "One hell of a long way from home, aren't you, friend?"
   The Tartarian deliberately pinched his straight, black brows together in an indication of annoyance that even the most obtuse being on Terra ought to be able to perceive. "My affairs are none of your concern---and I am most definitely not your 'friend'."
   The dark-haired intruder was finally put off by the brusque reply. His dark-blue eyes began to smoldeer. "Maybe not---but I am a friend of Hiro Orion Watenabe," he said quietly, trying unsuccessfully to read this silver-haired son-of-a-bitch.
   "Well, you're his roomie, dammit!"
   Malkis continued to regard this Hughes with a cold, disdainful stare. "Not by choice, I assure you," he retorted acidly.
   "Are all Tartarians as damn friendly as you are, Cadet?" Hughes demanded, crossing his arms on his chest, chin jutting forward in anger.
   "The term you insist upon employing is Terran in origin," Malkis responded in an ice-edged tone. "'Friendly' has no equivalent in the Tartarian language."
   "That I can believe!" Hughes declared wryly, starting back to the door. "Hell, I've heard talk about you. Thought everyone was having me on---until now!"
   Malkis glared anew at this impertinent Terran. "Is it too far beyond the limitations of your Terran abilities to close the door---behind you?"
   Hughes flashed the impossible Tartarian a corresponding glare and stalked out of the room; he slammed the door behind him in a typically-Terran display of anger and frustration. Malkis clearly heard the stream of colorful Terran invective released on the other side of the door, as Hughes called his Tartarian ancestry into question and damned him to Hell for all Eternity!

That's it---hope you enjoyed!


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Creating " The Hobbit"

If you're a big fan of the movie version of "The Lord of the Rings" ( as I am ), you probably can't wait for the two-part movie version of "The Hobbit", which is being directed by Peter Jackson. From what I've seen and heard about these films so far, we are in for a treat.

Ian McKellen is reprising his role as Gandalf the Grey, as is Hugo Weaving as Elrond. At one point I had heard that Orlando Bloom would return as Legolas ( he is a Wood Elf, after all! ), but at this time I haven't been able to confirm that info. I can, however, confirm that Evangeline Lilly ( Kate of "Lost" ) will play a female Wood Elf, and Stephen Fry has been cast as the Mayor of Laketown and has been shooting his scenes. I follow Stephen ( Bones, Black Adder, Fry and Laurie, etc. ) on Twitter.

Of great interest to me as an artist is the painstaking recreation of Rivendell and Bag End---quite a feat! Those were extraordinarily beautiful sets. Reconstructing Bag End must've been particularly complicated as several versions in various scales had to be constructed in order to make dwarves and hobbits appear to be smaller than Gandalf, when all the actors are approximately the same size.

Much as I can hardly bear the wait, I want the creative folk involved to do their utmost to make these two movies up to the same level as the first three. I have every confidence they'll do their absolute best!

All for now,


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

More Pi-con

For such a small con ( usual attendance is around 300 ), Pi-con had an excellent variety of events and program items. I was impressed.

Friday evening hubby and I attended a reading by award-winning author and guest of honor Jo Walton. She was very entertaining and not a writer we were previously familiar with. From now on we will definitely keep an eye out for her work.

Early Sat. morning we both attended a live demonstration of medieval sword fighting techniques. This wasn't your usual "stage" fighting; this was the real thing! Swordsmaster Steven Hirsch has studied texts of the time describing, even picturing, the actual techniques used---and they were pretty brutal.

We also attended some lively panels: NASA's 100-year plan for sending out starships, Star Trek's "attitude" toward the disabled, and several others. We sampled some of the rooms in "dealers' row". But one of the highlights of the con for us was the "rapid-fire reading" given by several members of Broad Universe---a group that I belong to, which is dedicated to promoting the work of women writers. Not only were the readings interesting, but we were able to get acquainted with some of my fellow writers.

Quite a few con-goers decided to leave Sat. pm due to Hurricane Irene; others, like us, decided to wait out the storm at the hotel and stay over one more night, which the Holiday Inn was very gracious about. Sunday turned out to be a really fun day. I attended a panel discussing e-books and self-publishing and publishing in general. Hubby went to one across the hall on 1960's SF movies ( his forte, not mine! )

A wrap-up/gripe session commenced at 3 pm and ran for about an hour and a half. We'd never attended one before as we usually had to head for home before then. Comments were overwhelmingly positive. And there were several first-time Pi-con-goers besides ourselves.

Instead of closing shop at that point and leaving the over-nighters to their own devices, the con committee scrambled to come up with additional panels. And very thoughtfully, the con suite, where free food and drink were available, stayed open to accomodate the remaining fans. We attended a very entertaining spur-of-the-moment panel discussing "Babylon 5", one of our all-time favorite TV series, the one credited with inventing the arc storyline. That panel was one of the best at this con.

We really didn't want to leave Pi-con, but perhaps the best thing of all was discovering a "new" convention, dedicated to geeks like us, that was close enough to get to by car, and that was small, friendly, and welcoming. We made some new friends and really look forward to seeing them at next year's Pi-con!

That's a wrap!


Monday, August 29, 2011

6 Pi-con

We had an absolute blast at Pi-con this weekend past. There was a fair amount of traffic going west on the Mass. turnpike, but it thinned out considerably once we'd passed the NYC exit. We reached Enfield, CT in about 2 1/2 hours. No trouble finding the Holiday Inn, which is conveniently located just off the highway. The staff there was very friendly and helpful, more so than is typical at cons. ( They like us; they really, really like us! )

Attendance was down from their usual due to an unwelcome guest---Hurricane Irene---which passed almost directly over us. We had some rain, a bit of wind Sunday, and a beautiful rainbow Sun. evening, but nothing too bad. We lucked out compared to the Southeast and the rest of New England.

The fans who attended Pi-con ran the gamut from writers, editors, scientists, and serious readers to filkers, gamers, costumers, anime buffs, and LARPers. They were all more than usually friendly and welcoming. Quite evidently, this is a con that is glad to have first-timers attend. Because Irene was due to pass by at the time we'd usually be heading for home, we decided ( as did quite a few others ) to stay put an extra night, and we were glad we did. The con scheduled extra events to entertain us and provided plenty of food and drink for those of us who chose to stay.

We had no trouble at all getting home in beautiful sunshine Mon. am, very little traffic so we made it in two hours. Pi-con was one of those cons that you leave thinking, " I can hardly wait to come back next year!" I'll give a more detailed account of events, program, and guests later!

All for now,


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Looking Ahead

I'm looking forward to attending Pi-con 6 in Enfield CT this weekend. We've never attended this con before, but it looks like fun. For many years my hubby and I attended United Fan Con in Springfield MA until that convention became defunct. What a shame! We really miss it. UFC was one of our all-time favorite cons: small, friendly, with a large, loyal following, and a lot of fun guests. Oh, well.

Now I've learned about another con, one we never heard of before: Anthocon, to be held in Portsmouth NH in Nov. It appears to be aimed primarily at writing/publishing professionals: writers, editors, artists. publishers, etc.---even more specific than Readercon. Most cons are aimed at a broader spectrum: book lovers, fans of TV shows, comic and anime fans, and so forth. Some are aimed at specific fandoms or genres: Star Trek, Star Wars, Twilight, etc.

While hubby and I used to attend cons simply for the fun of it, to meet and talk with other fans and media guests, get the latest news on our favorite shows, books, and movies, now we have to look at attending cons as more business-oriented. Our aim is to familiarize fans of SF&F with my name and my books. Not an easy task as there are thousands upon thousands of related books/authors. Besides achieving name regognition, it's always good, no matter what profession you're in, to make connections!

Will write again after Pi-con and give you a review.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Onward and Upward

I find it really hard to believe that True Son of Tartarus is finally finished ( at least as far as my writing and editing is concerned. ) Shortly, it will be on its way to the printer. After living with a book night and day for so long, it's rather an odd, empty feeling, sending it out into the world all by itself without me there to protect it---sort of like sending your baby off to school for the very first time!

But, fortunately, there'll be no "empty nest syndrome" here. Ransom of Tartarus is patiently waiting to be edited, pored over with a fine-tooth comb! When all three books of my trilogy have finally been published and are off my mind for the first time in over twenty years, now that will be a truly odd experience!

After taking a breather in order to recharge my batteries and mentally readjust, I intend to continue working on my space opera, to be titled "Galaxy Rand". Can't give you much more info at this point---ideas are, after all, a writer's stock-in-trade. I've been working on this book off and on for several years. As most writers do, I've started two or three other books that just didn't make the grade. The idea, the characters, the plot all have to latch onto you and cling like a blankedy-blank leech long enough to finish a book. Fact is, I've grown to love the two major characters in "Galaxy" and enjoy telling their story.

This one will be space opera, a good old, rollicking adventure story and a far cry from my Tartarus Trilogy. But I'm hoping that someday my readers will enjoy it as well.

All for now,


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Prejudiced Against Science Fiction?

I've often asked myself why certain people are so prejudiced against science fiction. Here are a few of the reasons I've come up with:

1) They've read some really bad SF.
2) They've read some really good SF, but couldn't get into it because it had too much technical jargon, way-out theories, or high-faluting vocabulary. ( I could name a few examples, but I'll refrain! )
3) They presume SF will be boring.
4) They consider all SF to be along the lines of "Star Wars" ( which is really space opera, not SF. )
5) They've read only SF that is outdated, the ones reality has already far surpassed.
6) They haven't yet discovered that one book that would really, truly appeal to them.

I've read a great deal of science fiction over the years, as well as related genres. Do I enjoy all of it? Frankly, no. But since I write mainly in the field of SF, I need to be aware, at least somewhat, of what other authors have done. But that doesn't mean I consider all equally good or to my tastes.

Once in a while I find something that I really admire, something that speaks to me. For instance, long ago I fell in love with the work of Zenna Henderson. Her " People" stories perfectly suit my tastes; they have humor, emotion, characters I could easily identify with, warmth, and a great sense of place ( the southwest ).

And much more recently I've, oddly enough, acquired a taste for urban fantasy, such as Tanya Huff's "Blood" books, Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse books, and Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments books. A bit of an odd combination, eh?

Any suggestions about converting those who purport to "hate" SF?


Monday, August 22, 2011

Classics, New and Old

Lately, in certain online discussion groups there seems to be an unfortunate tendency to deify the classics of SF&F, and therefore, to denigrate anything NEW, particularly from unfamiliar authors. Well, I'd just like to remind those who tend to think this way that many of the authors of those great classics are now dead! There will be no new writing from them. Would you really want to be confined to reading only THE CLASSICS for the rest of your life? Or are you willing to take a chance on authors you've never read before?

As I've admitted ( shamefacedly! ) one of the biggest mistakes of my life was reading only the first page of The Hobbit---and promptly putting it back on the shelf. I'd never even heard of J. R. R. Tolkien! Fortunately, I rectified that mistake and later discovered The Lord of the Rings, in my opinion one of the greatest fantasies ever written.

Of course, those who have recently discovered some of the great classics are in awe of them. But time doesn't stand still, and many of those who were influenced by those books are now writing SF&F of their own. Don't be too hasty to lump all those books into the category of "non-classics" and therefore dismiss them, untried.

In my lifetime I've started and failed to finish a good number of books---mainly because they failed to hold my interest or weren't up to my standards; however, I at least gave them a try. Be daring! Try reading a new book by an author unfamiliar to you. Try reading a new genre. You never know when you just might discover a new classic!

All for now,


Friday, August 19, 2011

Fantastic Genres

Previously I discussed science fiction sub-genres, so I'll attempt to briefly give equal time to fantasy. What exactly is fantasy, and why is it a separate category from SF? Many people tend to lump them together, including many bookstores.

Fantasy doesn't depend upon science as its foundation, as SF does. Instead of revolving around the visible, physical world with its multitude of hard-and-fast rules, fantasy delves into the world of the invisible, the impossible, the imaginative, ie: spirits, demons, prophecies, fantastic creatures, and unseen forces.

High Fantasy features strange new lands, heroic characters engaged in epic battles between good and evil, and various magical elements such as swords, rings, wands, potions, dragons and giants. The example par excellence is "The Lord of the Rings" by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Traditional fantasy has fewer laws about what is and is not possible; the reader enters an almost dreamlike world of infinite possibilities: fairies, gnomes, talking trees and animals, magical portals, etc. One good example of traditional fantasy is "The Chronicles of Narnia" by C. S. Lewis.

Dark fantasy is another popular category, and it is just that: dark! Dark fantasy abounds with frightening supernatural creatures, such as vampires, werewolves, demons---evil personified! Anne Rice's "Vampire Chronicles" are good examples of dark fantasy.

Lastly, in urban fantasy, a recent innovation, stories tend to be set in modern times, in the real world, usually in a city rather than an idyllic pastoral setting, where magic or magical characters intrude upon reality. Examples would be Tanya Huff's "Blood" books, set in Canadian cities.

Although my ventures into writing fantasy have so far been limited to a few short stories, I'm extremely fond of the genre in general. Some of my favorites are The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, the Twilight Saga, and Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse books. Harry Potter, in particular, seems to me to be a clever combination of elements from all the fantasy sub-genres!

Fantasy or SF or whatever, light or dark---keep on reading!


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Senses of Humor

My entire family has the strange habit of picking up odd phrases from movies, TV shows, etc. and quoting them for years on end---until hardly anyone else in the universe knows what the heck they're talking about! Some of these sayings include:
     "Holy Toledo, Batman!" (inspired by Adam West's TV series )
     "Have fun storming the castle!" (from The Princess Bride )
     "Inconceivable!" ( also from The Princess Bride )
     "That's like locking the barn doors after the horses have eaten your children!" ( from Staurday the Fourteenth )
     "Wot? The curtains?" (from Monty Python's Holy Grail )
     "I'm not dead yet." (ditto )

I'm left to conclude that a weird sense of humor is indeed hereditary; it's in your genes, so there's absolutely nothing you can do about it---what it's doing in your jeans I'd hate to say! ( I was brought up on the Marx brothers, sorry, folks! )

So what does a SOH have to do with my writing? Well, I tend to think of at least some of my characters as having a similar SOH. While I try to restrain myself, some lines manage to sneak their way in there, particularly whenever Kalom of Eris is speaking. That cocky, cheeky Thrasian just says whatever he likes. Try restraining him!

Malkis of Tartarus' SOH is perhaps the oddest. Tartarians don't really possess much of a sense of humor, but he's been around Terrans and other races long enough to have been "culturally contaminated". Hughes has very little SOH---he takes life and all his responsibilities far too seriously. At times he's downright grim. ( He had a much better SOH as a young man---which you will hopefully see someday in the prequel "Malkis of Tartarus". )

Rona Scott is a lot more fun than either of those two, which is probably why she gets along so well with Kalom. She's imaginative and playful and enjoys teasing people, particularly her husband. But it's no wonder she doesn't enjoy being trapped on gloomy Tartarus, among such humorless, rigid, and judgmental people.

Here's hoping that True Son of Tartarus will be available in just a few more weeks. The wait is killing me! But I promise you, it'll be worth the wait.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

In the Top 10%

When I checked my Kindle sales ranking this AM, I couldn't believe what I found! "Judgment on Tartarus" now ranks #84,122---well within the top 10% of Kindle sales. ( The highest I've ever ranked was in the top 5%. ) So I'm very grateful to anyone who decided to give my first science fiction novel a try, and I hope you enjoy it as much as my other readers have.

There are many thousands of books currently available online, all competing for your dollars. Unfortunately for readers, many of those, especially on the lower end of the pricing scale, are badly written and amateurish. My book is not. As with all things, you get what you pay for.

If you aren't convinced that I'm telling the absolute truth, I invite you to visit and please use their Look Inside feature to read any part of Judgment on Tartarus. On Kindle, I believe you can actually download a sample for free. If you find the book isn't your cup of tea, that's fine, but at least you'll have given it a fair chance. And you'll know for sure that my books aren't just "slushpile crap".

Thanks again, all!


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Genre Upon Genre

Although I usually categorize the Tartarus Trilogy as science fiction, I tend to think of those books more as "space adventure", maybe a sub-genre of science fiction that is not quite "space opera" and not as literary as most "soft" SF. They definitely aren't "hard" SF. That genre is defined as heavily dependent on science to carry the story: physics, chemistry, etc. Nothing impossible can take place, as least as projected into the future, ie: nanotechnology. Writing hard SF requires at least some scientific background, an understanding of the principles the cosmos operates on. "Mission of Gravity" by Hal Clement ( Harry Stubbs ) would be one example of hard SF.

In "soft" SF or "sociological" SF, writers create worlds that spotlight the human condition and its inherent problems. It's not as concerned with true science, for example "Dune" by Frank Herbert. Soft SF tends to be fairly literary.

"Space opera" is probably what most people these days associate as science fiction---lasers and rocket ships and light-sabers. These stories are seldom concerned with scientific accuracy; the tale is told for the sheer adventure of it, the fun! "Star Wars" is a great example of space opera. ( Some SF actually crosses genres---you usually get a taste of fantasy in your space opera. )

In my books I've tried to maintain scientific accuracy as closely as possible, although I've had to cheat a bit in places. Hyperspace and hyperdrive are theoretical concepts that are quite probably impossible; however, SF stories that wish to deal with space travel to distant places have to invent a plausible means of such travel. ( Travel to other galaxies is, at this point, highly implausible and would tend to push a book into the "science fantasy" genre. )

And I realize that concepts such as an "ice-planet" or an "idyllic planet" are implausible, but I chose to use them to get a point across, more as metaphors than reality. Hopefully, people will read and enjoy my books, rather than spending time judging or categorizing them. To me, the story is everything.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Never the Twain Shall Meet

Harking back to my "weird" sense of humor, I simply can't resist blogging a quote from Mark Twain's famous essay critiquing "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses":

     "The personages in a tale shall be alive, except in the case of corpses, and always the reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others.
     The personages in a tale, both alive and dead, shall exhibit a sufficient excuse for being there."

Well, perhaps this criticism is a bit outdated now that we have The Twilight Saga, The Vampire Diaries, Trueblood, etc. It's sometimes a bit difficult in our modern literature and other media to tell the difference between the living characters and the living dead!

If you don't know who James Fenimore Cooper was, better review your history of American literature. If you've never read any of his work, uh---hmmm---well, you are excused. Instead, see the latest movie made from his written material, " The Last of the Mohicans". And by the way, for Harry Potter fans, Jason Isaacs ( Lucius Malfoy ) plays the bad guy in that movie.

But if you don't know who Mark Twain was, shame on you---unless you exhibit a sufficient excuse for not knowing.

Keep on laughing; it will keep you young! Trust me.


P.S. My blog recently passed the 700 views mark!

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Strong Female Protagonist

I've seen queries posted by discussion group contributors who are searching for books with strong female characters. In Judgment on Tartarus the major character is Ensign Corona ( Rona ) Scott. She's in almost every scene, from page one to the final paragraph. The story is told almost exclusively from her point of view, and I think most people can easily identify with her as she's thrown into situations that range from uncomfortable to downright life-threatening.

Rona Scott is a young woman who has been on her own for some time; both her parents died in the Mars-colony disaster, and she's been pretty much alone since then. But instead of seeking a relationship, she was single-minded enough to make it through four years at the ISS Academy in Houston. After spending five years planet-bound at Earth Base One's DataComm Center---a job that failed to fulfill her dreams of a career in space---Rona was desperate.

She becomes the unwitting catalyst for change aboard the retired battle cruiser Astrella II, and later, on the planet Tartarus. Rona admits to herself that she would have taken any assignment, short of outpost duty on Hermes Six, just to get into space. Driven by a passionate desire to succeed, and to excel, she finds the prevailing atmosphere aboard Astrella damn depressing---not at all what she'd expected!

Despite her determination to remain open-minded, she conceives an almost-instantaneous hatred for Astrella's Executive Officer, Malkis of Tartarus, who lets her know in no uncertain terms that he has no use for Terran females. Rona refuses to be cowed and stands up for herself.

So if you are in search of a book featuring a strong female protagonist who is feminine, intelligent, very human---certainly not Wonder Woman!---resourceful, and remarkably resilient, Rona Scott is your woman.

Haven't yet read Judgment on Tartarus? Why not give it a try? Even the guys who've read this book enjoyed it immensely.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Weird Sense of Humor?

Currently on Twitter there's a game of sorts, started I believe by the SF writer Margaret Atwood. The idea is to drop one letter in the title of a book and make a funny new title, ie:
     Horton Hears A Ho
     The Handmaid's Ale
     Huckleberry Inn---the story of a Mississippi B and B
     Moby Ick---the messy business of whaling

This is what I came up with using titles from my own library:
     The Lord of the Ings---the history of a famous Chinese overlord
     Fellowship of the Rig---male bonding on deep-sea oil rigs
     The Two Owers--trials and tribulations of a couple deep in debt
     Return of the Kin---relatives who just won't leave
     Red Moo, Black Mountain---the adventures of a daring cow in an alternate reality
And one non-book: A Christmas Tory--- a man who sides with the redcoats seasonally

I know, I know, I have a weird sense of humor. To prove it, here's one of my all-time favorite jokes:
     Two British nuns were traveling by car one night. As they drove down a dark, deserted English lane, a hungry vampire jumped out into the road, blocking their car.
     The Sister who was driving told her companion, "Quick, Sister! Roll down the window and show 'im your cross!"
     So the other Sister rolled down the window, stuck her head out, and yelled at the vampire, " Get outa the road, you stupid git!"

That one is thanks to the BBC's Vicar of Dibley, a show I occasionally catch. ( We do love our BBC! )

Can't help it that I have a sense of humor that tends to make other people groan!


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Some Questions To Be Answered

Below are some of the questions that will soon be answered in my upcoming SF novel True Son of Tartarus:

     Why did Malkis of Tartarus abandon his homeworld?
     Why was his father, Kadris, so angry that he irrevocably disowned his only son twenty-seven years later?
     How did Malkis and his cousin Shadris become mortal enemies when they had once been the closest of    friends?
     How did Richard Hughes and Malkis first meet and why did they quickly become rivals and enemies?
     How did Hughes first get captaincy of Astrella II? And what did Malkis have to do with that command?
     What was Malkis' true reaction when he first met Rona Scott?

Not only will all those questions be answered, but in True Son of Tartarus you will get your first look at the Compact's long-time mortal enemies, the "Gorgonians", as well as your first taste of the famous Battle for Tartarus, the final battle in the Gorgonian Wars.

Hope it sounds like fun!


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Black Lagoon as Social Commentary?

As hubby was watching "Creature From the Black Lagoon" with commentary ( he loves that stuff! ), I happened to overhear a comment that struck me as pretty close to my own way of looking at the arts. Many forms of art, such as SF and F, can be employed to make social commentary palatable to the general public, even to those who watch, read, or listen purely for entertainment purposes.

Star Trek did it; Babylon 5 did it---and did it very well. Countless books and songs and even artwork have done the same, raising issues such as slavery, prejudice, sexism, and racism. So it certainly isn't without precedence that my trilogy also explores some social issues, while serving primarily as entertainment. ( I don't believe in being preachy! Turns people off---turns me off! )

But in my trilogy I bring up issues such as the nearly perpetual war between the two Erisian Empires: the Lamidians and the Thrasians---and their mutual disdain and hatred for the poor Maradinians, who are pacifists and refuse to be drawn into their on-going war. Then there's the issue of the almost universal dislike, even hatred, of Tartarians because they are "different": the color of their skin is "too pale", they look strange, they refuse to display much emotion, and they are strict in their obedience to laws and regulations---which makes them no fun at all, at least as far as the inhabitants of the rest of the known-Galaxy is concerned!

Social commentary is fine and dandy---as long as you're not being beaten over the head with it!


Monday, August 8, 2011

Choices, Challenges, and Destiny

I got some lovely news yesterday; a lady from Virginia who read my book let me know that she loved it. I'm happy to hear that. Not only am I happy hearing from people who have read or are reading Judgment on Tartarus, but also that so far the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

I really, truly, want my readers to enjoy the books in my trilogy, but also to take something meaningful from them. My "heroes" aren't vampires, or werewolves, or elves---they are ordinary prople who have worked hard to achieve their dreams, who strive against all odds to maintain their high ideals, their integrity---and who sometimes suffer the consequences as a result.

Now, a few readers might be tempted to argue with me, thinking those statements are a bit of a stretch ( at least in regard to Malkis of Tartarus being ordinary! ), but I'm sure that throughout history, both ancient and modern, many real-life monarchs have said the equivalent of, "Why me? I don't want to do this!"

Each of us has, at one time or another, balked at something in our life. Some choose to run away from their destiny: it's too hard, it will take too long, it requires too much effort, or it isn't "fun". But others choose to accept the challenges presented them and plug away at achieving their destiny, taking a leap of faith and trying their best not to allow themselves to get discouraged in the process.

As the Tartarians say: "Destiny is destiny!"


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Self Promotion

I feel as though I'm treading a fine line here: promoting my books without looking like I'm bragging! Really tough to do, believe me. I know that Judgment on Tartarus is a good book; it's well-written, fun, entertaining, emotion-provoking, and---dare I say it?---addictive. I think that's an honest assessment, rather than the baseless bragging I've heard from a lot of other authors.

As I've said before, I'm ecstatically happy when one of my readers agrees with my opinion. But if I fail to self-promote, no one is going to hear about my books, let alone read them. No one's going to care about the second book in the trilogy, or the third. This is entirely new territory to me. I'm learning as I go and trying my best not to step into any steel traps. I've already tried most of the techniques recommended by my publisher and other experts: facebook pages, Twitter, writing this blog, searching for related sites on the internet, etc.

But I'm open to any and all suggestions. If anybody has any ideas about how to let potential readers know about my books, my trilogy, please let me know. It's even more difficult to "get the word out" now that Amazon has banned writers from most of its discussion groups, a move I disagree with. I could see banning books that they themselves don't carry, but banning their own? I need more ways to assure people that my books are far from the glut of  "slush-pile crap" that is currently inundating the internet.

Is it even possible?


Friday, August 5, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger

Went to see the Captain America movie with the family and thoroughly enjoyed it. This action movie was set in the 1940s ( WW II ) but it didn't come off as dated as I feared it would. Once again, like Thor, this movie was successful because it took the comic book hero seriously, but still had fun with the concept.

The special effects were top-notch, state of the art, and the acting, costumes, writing, etc. were all well done. I was especially impressed by Chris Evans as Captain America and Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull. If you enjoy fun movies with a lot of action and things blowing up every which way, this is the movie for you.

In the end, they have a very clever, heart-wrenching way of taking Captain America into the present day. And if you will sit patiently through the entire list of credits, you will be rewarded with a sneak peek at The Avengers, featuring not only Captain America, but also Thor, Iron Man, and other Marvel super-heroes. That movie will be coming out next summer; it looks like fun.

As for the other super-hero movies due to come out next year, Spiderman is being revamped and recast, Batman will ride again, and Superman will star in Man of Steel. Great for all us fans of comicbook heroes. But whatever happened to Wonder Woman? She was one of my childhood heroes.

I also can't wait for Part 1 of Breaking Dawn ( the Twilight Saga ). I know these two movies are based on a book, which I've read, not a comic. But they seem very similar to me. All are fantasies with clearcut heroes and villains, who are put into life-or-death situations. This one will definitely be one of my guilty pleasures!

All for now,


Thursday, August 4, 2011

More Good News

Some good news to report: my Kindle sales ranking has risen back up to 213,222, which is once again in the top 1/4 of Kindle e-book sales! Paperback sales are still down, but not as low as they had been. Things are looking up. Yesterday, I took the proofed manuscript ( after layout ) of True Son of Tartarus to the local Post Office, boxed it up, and mailed it off to the publisher, who should get it on Friday.

They use an expensive computer program to make the necessary changes, then e-mail me the corrected PDF to double-check. Then, hopefully, I can sign off on it and the layout and cover will be sent to the printer to be made into books.

I remember the wonderful feeling of accomplishment I felt when I held the first copy of Judgment on Tartarus in my hands. I can't wait to hold a copy of True Son of Tartarus---soon I hope! Thanks to everyone who's read Judgment and been dying to read the next book. Your patience should be rewarded soon. But remember, if I hadn't written the entire trilogy before Judgment was published, I'd still be writing True Son, not waiting to see it in print.

Thanks again,


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Blunders Abound

As a writer, I can't help judging other writers' work as I read. That just comes along with the territory. It's both eye-opening and disappointing to discover how many published---even famous!---writers aren't always quite up to snuff. Not that I'm perfect, either; we all have our own strengths and weaknesses.

I hope he'll forgive me for mentioning this, but one of the pieces read at the most recent Readercon's Bad Prose Contest was from a story written by Terry Goodkind ( author of The Sword of Truth series ). And it was awful, ie: "he heard the sound of a screech". Really?

I've read a couple of Terry's books, and they were nowhere near that bad. Maybe he wrote the above-mentioned piece on a really bad day---we all have them. And I've written a few lines myself that were downright laughable; for instance: "grasping his dar-dul'adz firmly in his right hand..." What!? My three kids rolled on the floor laughing at that one; I promptly changed it. ( NB: it's always a good idea to have someone else check your work with a fresh eye and an open mind to avoid blunders like that. )

I've caught a few faux pas in other people's work that they somehow missed---just a matter of the wrong juxtaposition of words or phrases---wish I could remember some of them. They can be amusing to hilarious. But I find that if the story is really good, I'm more than willing to forgive a few errors---as long as they're minor. One notorious example of a whopping blunder was found in a fantasy written, I believe, by Lin Carter, where the hero's magic sword is captured---and several chapters later, with absolutely no explanation, the hero miraculously has his sword back again! Unforgiveable.

Hoping I'm never guilty of a blunder that blatant!


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Common Ground

Yesterday I happened to catch a TV interview with Danielle Steele. She has written 118 books---and I've never read a single one of them, I must admit. But I discovered during the interview that besides being authors and loving to tell stories, we share several other things in common.

First, she started out as an artist, as did I, before turning to writing. I exhibited ( and sold ) some of my work at SF conventions. Second, Ms. Steele confessed that while she's writing she stops reading altogether, as I do! There's always the danger of being unduly influenced during the delicate creative process!

And third, we both do not write explicit sex scenes. She and I believe, to quote her, in discreetly "shutting the bedroom door" on our characters. So although we write wildly different genres, maybe we aren't that far apart after all.

Never having read one of her books, I can't state that in absolute certainty, but the interview did encourage me to try reading one of her books someday---just to see if we share anything else in common.

Back to preparing the proofed manuscript of True Son of Tartarus to be mailed out tomorrow!


Monday, August 1, 2011

The Interstellar Space Service Fleet

Now that our space shuttle fleet has been retired and consigned to museums, I thought everyone might be interested in the names of some of the ships in my fleet.

Some of the early-generation ships are:

Columbia            Libertad                           
Galaxia               Atlanta
Olympia              Odin
Victoria               Britannia

Most of these ships have been retired from active service and now serve as training vessels for cadets at the ISS Academy located in Houston, Texas, USA.

Here are some of the later-generation ships:

Astrella I and II  ( The former was destroyed by Gorgonians. )
Persephone I and II  ( ditto )

And some of the ships not yet mentioned in my books include:

Buenos Aires

As time goes on, the fleet may grow. Who knows?


Sunday, July 31, 2011

Author's Proofs

I've been rather busy going over the proofs of True Son of Tartarus with a fine-tooth comb. Not only do I have to check and double-check my work for nit-picky details of spelling, punctuation, grammar, continuity, etc., but I have to check the publisher's layout job as well. Believe it or not, there are often some big boo-boos there! An author can never be too careful.

I've caught mistakes that slipped by in a lot of books---even the Harry Potter books were plagued by publishing problems! The paperback version of Judgment on Tartarus, as published, had a few small errors that somehow managed to get by all the proofing, but the Kindle version---which I had nothing to do with---had a lot more. I own one other book on Kindle ( All the Weyrs of Pern by Anne McCaffrey ) and that one, unfortunately, is LOADED with errors! I consider myself fortunate.

Once I'm done proofing, I have to mail all the pages with changes back to my publisher to be corrected via a computer program. Then I'll get a copy of that for final proofing, and hopefully, can sign off on it. Next, the manuscript goes to the printer to be turned into a finished book. I know many of you are anxious to find out what happens next in the story. Well, I know what happens next, and I still can hardly stand the suspense!

True Son of Tartarus can't come out soon enough for me!


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Good and Bad News

The good news is that the Kindle version of Judgment on Tartarus is holding steady at the top 1/2 in sales rankings. The "bad" news is that the paperback version, which admittedly is almost twice the price, fluctuates between about 400,000 to 900,000 in sales rankings. I suppose that's not really surprising, especially given the current economic conditions. I really didn't have much input into pricing, other than refusing to cut corners in order to bring the price down a bit. I haven't checked lately to see if online booksellers other than Amazon have any "bargain prices". I'm sure that's possible.

Besides the obvious economic factors, two other things are probably impacting my sales: 1) Judgment is my first published novel and 2) my name has no "recognition factor" as yet. Whenever someone enjoys a good book, they are obviously inclined to seek out other books by the same author. I know I do. Neither of these limiting factors will be mitigated until True Son of Tartarus is published and becomes available at online booksellers.

But whatever happens with the sale of my books---or lack thereof!---I fully intend to pursue publication of the last installment of the trilogy: Ransom of Tartarus. So take heart! Should you by chance become invested in the continuing story, it will be resolved in Book 3. And because I deliberately wrote each book so that it was capable of standing alone, you can read any one of the trilogy without being left disappointed. ( I could name a book or two of a trilogy that left me quite frustrated, but in deference to those authors, I won't! )

All for now,


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Harry Potter 7.2

Just got back from seeing part 2 of the Harry Potter finale and thought I'd post a few thoughts about the movie. Generally speaking, I thought this movie remained fairly true to J. K. Rowling's final book, especially when it came to the climactic scenes. I fully understand why a change of venue was necessary for the Harry/ Voldemort denouement, which did not take place in the Great Hall as written. A movie must take great care not to become claustrophobic; most grand scenes require a grand setting, sometimes a symbolic setting.

One of the things that struck me is how much the three young stars have grown both as actors and as human beings. This definitely wasn't your typical kids' movie, any more than The Deathly Hallows was a typical kids' book. ( I loved it and I'm far from a kid! ) The movie and the actors take you to some very dark places.

Fantasy, as well as science fiction, often can take issues of good vs evil into a realm far beyond our everyday experience, can examine issues, such as the choices we make and the values we hold, under a microscope, as we seldom get to do in reality.

Parts of this movie touched me deeply. If you can't shed a tear for Severus Snape as well as for Harry Potter, then I guess you just don't get it, and this movie won't appeal to you. Regardless of the amazing special effects and the pulse-pounding thrill-rides, I believe the marks of a good movie are that it moves the viewer emotionally and resonates with truth.

In that respect, as well as for being very entertaining, H. P. 7.2 was a great success, a fitting conclusion to a successful movie series, which definitely isn't for kids alone. I highly recommend it; see it if you can!


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Hot Spell

The heatwave that hit the East Coast wasn't fun. Temperatures shot up over 100 degrees, even in my backyard, which is shaded by a good many tall trees. Since it was too hot to work outdoors, I was forced to stay inside. And being a dyed-in-the-wool writer, what did I do? I wrote, naturally.

First, I worked on a short story I wrote several years ago and promptly lost. As usual, I had stumbled across the first draft while searching for something else---which, of course, I didn't find. Is there some kind of unwritten law about this?

Anyway, the short story is a vampire-themed urban fantasy, not horror. And no, it's nothing like Twilight! After writing a second draft of the short, I started working on another novel, this time a space opera, also begun several years ago. The title is Galaxy Rand, and this book is going to be a far cry from my Tartarus books. But I think Galaxy will end up being a fun read in itself.

The rough draft of Malkis of Tartarus, the first prequel to the Tartarus Trilogy, is finished, and as usual, I'm letting it "marinate" for a while. When I get back to it, I should be able to evaluate the novel with fresh eyes: add, delete, correct, etc. I may go through several drafts before I'm entirely satisfied.

So a spell of intense summer heat can lead to a spell of productive writing---as can winter snowstorms! But at least I don't have to go out and shovel heat.

All for now,


Monday, July 25, 2011

The Ark Theory

To explain more fully the "Ark Theory" proposed in Judgment on Tartarus: at some point in humanity's distant past, an advanced alien race, fearing that humanity would be wiped out by dangerous conditions on Earth, decided to transplant or "seed" humans across this galaxy onto other habitable, Earthlike planets. It has been a long-time SF theory that human beings didn't originate on Earth, but were seeded here by some alien race. I don't agree, since all scientific evidence proves that humans are native to this planet. But while I don't in the least believe we've ever been visited by "an advanced alien race", I decided to employ that concept in my trilogy.

 Why did I adapt that theory for the Tartarus books? Well, first of all I didn't want any "bug-eyed monsters" ( BEMs ) in my work. I wanted "aliens" people could easily relate to. Plus, it would be scientifically impossible for unrelated alien races to procreate with one another---other books, TV shows and movies to the contrary! If I wanted to remain within the realm of science fiction without crossing into fantasy, I had to come up with a feasible explanation.

So I decided to exploit that unproven concept to explain the close relationship between the denizens of such far-flung planets as Earth, Eris, Cytherea, and the long-forgotten homeworld of the Tartarians. Since the present-day descendants of those transplanted Terrans share DNA, they are perfectly able to interbreed.

The major obstacles to such relationships are, as always, bigotry, prejudice, and racial hatred. No matter how advanced our technology may become, some people never learn! Sad, but true. Take it from one who was made fun of as a child simply for wearing glasses!

Back to work now proofing True Son of Tartarus!


Friday, July 22, 2011

End of An Era

Welcome home, Atlantis! In the pre-dawn hours of Thursday, July 21, 2011, the space shuttle Atlantis landed safely on Earth for the last time. The event was joyous, but sad, for that landing marked not only the end of Atlantis' career in space, but also the end of America's manned spaceflight for some time to come.

That saddens me. I know that many Americans believe we shouldn't be spending vast amounts of money on space travel, citing the bad economy and the multitude of problems here at home. The truth is that we waste a heck of a lot of money, time, and effort on non-essential things. In my opinion space exploration is essential; eventually Earth is going to run out of natural resources and may become an unlivable hell-hole as we try to extract every last ounce of her resources. Unfortunately, most people hold the attitude that "as long as it doesn't impact me, I don't give a darn!"

Anyway, enough of that dismal thought. Next year Atlantis is destined to be put on display at the Kennedy Space Center. Discovery will be on view at the Smithsonian in DC, and Endeavour, at the Science Center in LA. Maybe, even in retirement, the space shuttles will serve to inspire another generation and reignite our passion for space exploration.

And, although there's no timetable as yet, I've heard rumors about plans to go back to the Moon, on to Mars, even to land astronauts on an asteroid ( a potential source of endless raw materials! ). It's still sad to see our 30-year shuttle program come to a screeching halt, but at least Atlantis ended on a safe and successful note. For now, other spacefaring nations will have to carry on the cause.

Good voyage to all!