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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mighty Thor

Took a break last week to go see the new movie "Thor". I used to love reading Thor comic books when I was younger, but this Thor is not much like the Thor I grew up reading. The story has been updated and, I think, improved significantly. The movie relies heavily on Norse mythology---Odin, Loki, Frost Giants, Bi-frost, etc. For those who don't have a background in Norse mythology, however, they do some well-handled explanation.

The writing is excellent; the special effects were creative and well-done; the cinematography was spectacular, and the acting, for the most part, above par. There are also some successful bits of humor which do not detract from the believability of the plot. This movie suggests that the Norse gods were actually alien beings with super-powers, who were from another dimension and greeted by humans as gods.

"Thor" was not as comic-booky as one might expect---I actually found myself feeling sorry for the trickster god, Loki, Thor's brother, and sympathizing with Thor, the god of thunder, when his father, Odin, banished him to Earth and took away his super-powers. All in all, "Thor" was an enjoyable, very entertaining movie which would appeal even to those who didn't grow up as fans of the comic book. I look forward to owning the DVD.

All for now,


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Trouble With Technology

I recently had a discussion with another author as well as a couple of my readers about the place of technology in SF. Probably the most difficult part of writing science fiction is projecting present-day technology into the far future. Change happens so rapidly these days that what I or other authors project to be true 90 years from now may well be the case in 10 years---or even tomorrow!

But the tech must still be believable or readers won't buy it ( the tech, not the book! ) Remember when Star Trek's communicators were an "Oh, wow!" invention? Now we all have communicators, only they are called cell phones! Many other technologies were once SF and are now reality. Most people don't even realize that to be true.

So SF writers have to walk a fine line when it comes to inventing future technology. In the long run, I believe, the story has to be predominant, not the tech, for a book to long remain relevant.

Just finished my phone conference with my publisher and everything looks on track. My ideas for the cover of True Son of Tartarus may be a bit too difficult to fully realize, but we will see what can be done. Wish me luck!


Friday, May 20, 2011

Some Thumbnail Character Sketches

Malkis of Tartarus:   His way of life is ascetic and includes such practices as fasting, meditating, the Rahn-tzl, and enduring discomfort or suffering, whether mental or physical. He has few possessions, does not grasp for money, fame, power or property. He is "loyalty incarnate" and as stubborn as hell. But he's severely lacking when it comes to love, mercy, pity, or compassion---and tolerance! He needs his internal barriers broken down, and he still has a lot to learn.

Corona Scott ( Rona ):   She's an ambitious, career-driven young woman with a good heart and high ideals. Unknowingly, she becomes the catalyst for change both aboard Astrella and on the planet Tartarus, breaking down the normal ways of thinking and of doing things. She is the cause of a crack of light penetrating the gloomy darkness of Tartarus for the first time. Her Terran warmth has begun the slow process of melting the Tartarian's hard heart.

Richard Hughes:   A lonely, driven man with anger issues, a man not known for his patience, a man born to command a spacecruiser. He's definitely not a bigot---his best friends include Malkis of Tartarus, Kalom of Eris, and Barad of Eris---but, with his no-nonsense, by the book attitude, he has little time or energy for most personal relationships, including with his own crew. That is, until Rona Scott signs aboard Astrella.

Those are the three major characters featured in Judgment on Tartarus. The Kindle version now ranks #75,700 out of 950,000 titles, but correspondingly perhaps, the book version is back down below the one million mark. Can't have it all, I guess.

All for now---have to get back to work!


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Surviving the Craziness!

Seems as if my "to do" list gets longer every day! And my "done" list---well, let us say it's not as long. And it's my own fault, can't blame anyone else. Besides the list of usual chores we all have to accomplish, I'm getting True Son ready for publication, working on the rough draft of the prequel, Malkis of Tartarus, and preparing to edit Book Three: Ransom of Tartarus, meanwhile searching the house from top to bottom looking for the lost ending to my space opera titled Galaxy Rand!

Please understand I don't recommend this idiocy to anyone else! My life can be, and usually is, very confusing. When I wake up in the morning, I have to stop and think, "If this is Wednesday, it must be Malkis of Tartarus!" When I try to discuss my writing with my long-suffering husband, he has to stop me and ask, "Oaky---which book are we talking about here?"

Though I do try to write something almost every day, there are times when I'm just not in the mood for, say, a seriously heavy scene---so I go on to something lighter. Or, as I'm working on one thing, an idea for something else pops into my head, so I go on to that while the idea is still fresh in my mind! Sounds rather chaotic and haphazard, I know, but for me it tends to work out rather amazingly well!

One of my several mottoes is: "Insanity prevails!" Creativity certainly can be messy, but it sure is fun!


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Voyage Into the Unknown

The start of any new venture can lead to butterflies in the stomach. Publishing a new book is no different. It can be one heck of a scary proposition! After investing so much time and effort ( aka blood, sweat, and tears---yes, real tears; the blood, not so much, thank goodness! ) publishing your work feels a bit like being swept away in a madly-rushing stream---no idea how far you'll be swept or what your ultimate destination will be. Scary, but exciting at the same time!

I am trying to keep both feet planted firmly on the earth---though my head is in outer space a good deal of the time! Most of what happens isn't under my control. I just have to let it play out as I hope for the best. I have high hopes for my next book, True Son of Tartarus, but I remember how nervous I was when I sent out Judgment on Tartaus. So far that book has exceeded my expectations.

Right now I'm concentrating on getting True Son through the publishing process and continuing to write the best stories I can, honing my skills, and just plugging away. The biggest up-side for me is that I'm having loads of fun! Would I still write if I didn't enjoy it? Maybe not. I believe in doing what you love to do, particularly should you find that you're good at it.

So, whatever your passion is, don't hold your creativity back. Give it a go!


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Peek into True Son

People are already beginning to ask me what True Son of Tartarus is about. As I think I've already blogged, it's a continuation of the story I began in Judgment On Tartarus. But don't worry: if someone hasn't read Book One, True Son can stand on its own. I hate books where, if you've missed one in the series, you are totally lost!

Nine months, Terran Reckoning, after the conclusion of Judgment, Rona and Malkis still find themselves at odds with Kadris, Shakandra, and Imalda---Shakandra's daughter and only surviving child. Malkis makes plans, against their wishes, to depart Tartarus for a vitally important conference of the Interplanet Compact, which is to be held on Cytherea. He adamantly refuses to allow Rona to accompany him. Of course, she's hurt, angry, and deeply disappointed.

But Malkis is all too aware of the danger he's facing: the Compact's mortal enemies, the Gorgonians, are most likely lurking nearby, waiting to take advantage of such an opportunity. Malkis is also well aware that Rona's life is in great danger on Tartarus, since he has just barely survived another assassination attempt!

Shortly after his departure, Rona receives word that Malkis' ship has been destroyed by the Gorgonians and he is presumed dead. Gorgonians take no prisoners and leave no witnesses! Rona is forced to make a choice between her loyalty to her new world and her exalted position---and her loyalty to Malkis, whom she refuses to believe is dead!

Sound good? I sure hope so! I had a blast writing it, and I can't wait for you all to read it!


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Love, Loyalty, Etc.

Even at this late date I'm still thinking about the theme---or themes---I wrote about in True Son of Tartarus. Loyalty is definitely one theme: Malkis' loyalty to his people and to his wife, both Rona's and Hughes' loyalty to him. Self-sacrifice as an expression of love is another theme here, just as it was in Judgment on Tartarus. The sheer power of that kind of selfless love is crucial to the plots of both books. And the villains in both, the Gorgonians ( aka Ghendarians ) are absolutely clueless when it comes to any concept of love, loyalty, or self-sacrifice---which is, of course, what makes them the bad guys!
One of the major questions asked in True Son is: which is more important---honor or survival? Each of my  characters  has to make up his or her own mind and make a choice during the course of the plot.

Love is also a major theme of both books, though different cultures define "love" much differently. Being Terran, Rona Scott and Richard Hughes tend to identify love with a state of emotion, while Malkis of Tartarus is of a culture which does not recognize the emotional component at all and fails to understand it.

And, most likely, the hedonistic, fatalistic Cythereans would merely shrug and identify love as just another form of pleasure-seeking!

Although I'm quite obviously a Terran myself, I can understand somewhat Malkis' concept of love; having once been involved in the Worldwide Marriage Encounter movement, I can't help but recall their saying: "Love is a decision."

To each his own, I guess!


Monday, May 9, 2011

Hits and Misses!

Biggest Reading Mistake I Ever Made:

I read the first page of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien---and put it back on the bookstore shelf! Who wants to read a book about some critter who lives in a hole in the ground? Fortunately for me, I rectified that mistake shortly thereafter---thank goodness!

Books I've Found Worth Reading Over and Over Again:

The Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder---based on real life experiences and absolutely not just for children! ( and very little like the TV series! )
The Harry Potter Books by J.K. Rowling---ditto!
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien---all-time classics of high fantasy!

Some Guilty Pleasures:

The Sookie Stackhouse Books by Charlaine Harris ( fantasy/horror ) and the Blood Books by Tanya Huff ( also fantasy/horror ) All of these are definitely adults-only and not the kind of book you might picture me enjoying!

And One I'm Still Not Sure About:

The Sword of Truth Trilogy by Terry Goodkind---kind of heroic fantasy, but I began reading because I'm a fan of the TV series based on it, Legend of the Seeker, and as other fans have noted , the books aren't much like the series. I may go back and give it another try.

In ending, latest Kindle sales ranking is # 83,530 out of 900,000+ ! And the best news of all, I just signed the contract to have True Son of Tartarus published within the next 3-6 months!

Hope you can wait that long!


Thursday, May 5, 2011

More Cons!

My husband and I are planning to attend two science fiction conventions this year. The first is Readercon, held in Burlington, MA. We first attended this con when one of our favorite cons ceased to function. As you might imagine from its name, Readercon is devoted to fans who read SF&F and related genres, as opposed to fans of media such as TV, movies, gaming, etc. This con features author's talks and kaffee-klatches, readings, a Bad Prose contest, panels, a charity bake sale, and a book dealers' room, among other things. It's a lot of fun---besides giving us a good excuse to patronize their pub and eat in a local restaurant.Now it has also become a business matter as it's another way to publicize and sell my book.

The second con we plan to attend is Pi-con in Enfield, CT. Although we've never attended this con before, it looks like fun: anime, gaming, SF&F, etc. If you've never attended an SF convention before, seriously consider it; they are never boring! You are bound to meet people who share some of your interests; you never know who you'll meet or what you'll see. Some very interesting fans attend. One of the qualities I like best about SF fans is their acceptance of differences. SF is, after all, about new possibilities, changes, things that are "other" to us.

Over the years, I've watched or  participated in Medieval banquets and tournaments, costume contests, art shows, and "filk" singing. I've attended a real, Star Trek-themed wedding, attended talks given by TV and movie actors---as well as had personal conversations with some of them. And I've had the pleasure of meeting some well-known SF&F authors.Wouldn't trade all that for the world! Give a con a try!


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pros and Cons

My husband and I greatly enjoy attending science fiction and fantasy conventions ( cons ), and over the years we've been to quite a few. Unfortunately, in this computer age, some of our favorites are no longer being held---and we miss them! I have fond memories of meeting and talking to some favorite TV and movie actors, including Henry Winkler ( "Happy Days", "Curb Your Enthusiasm" ), John Rhys-Davies ( "Lord of the Rings", "Sliders", "Raiders of the Lost Ark" ), Mira Furlan ( "Babylon 5", "Lost"" ), and Matt Lewis ( Neville Longbottom in the "Harry Potter" films ).

Alas, my all-time favorite was the late Richard Biggs ( may he rest in peace! ) who played Dr. Steven Franklin in Babylon 5. He was an absolutely lovely, kind man with a great sense of humor and loads of talent. I remember in particular our discussion of the show's precarious position as far as renewal went; we let him know that we loved the show so much that we stayed up until 1:00 in the morning to watch it on our local station. We concluded that all he could do to influence the outcome was to give his role the best he had. Obviously, he did, for B-5 made it a full five seasons---to our great joy---plus made- for- TV movies. If you've never seen the show, catch it on DVD or you've really missed something meaningful!

We realize that, to the actors, a job is a job---but many of them do seem to particularly enjoy being involved in sci-fi/fantasy and attending cons to meet their fans. At cons they are able to find out exactly how much their work is appreciated. Actors are people, and an ego boost is something we all can't help but get a kick out of!

I believe in expressing your appreciation for a job well done!


Monday, May 2, 2011

Onward and Upward

Holy Toledo, Batman! One day Judgment's sales ranking on Kindle is #255,106---and the next it's #106,732 ( out of 900,000 titles! ) I simply cannot believe it! Would you say my decision to put out a Kindle version of Judgment on Tartarus was a pretty good one?

At this point I have high hopes for Book Two: True Son of Tartarus. Several years ago, when I offered the manuscript to a couple of traditional publishers ( the Big Guys! ) one called DAW kept True Son for TWO years before returning it to me with a polite note saying they had decided not to publish it!

That's when I decided that the usual ( at that time ) publishing process  was too slow and time-consuming---time a serious writer cannot afford to waste! I decided to pursue other options, researched them, and made a decision. So far it has worked out well for me--and I truly appreciate everyone who has taken an interest in my work. Thank you!


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Themes and Judgments

Sometimes as I write, I get so focused on scenes and characters, etc., that I don't even recognize that a theme is developing until I reread the manuscript ( unless it's so obvious it bops me on the nose! ) For instance, during the recent editing process for True Son of Tartarus, it dawned on me that the inflexibility of Tartarian Law is comparable to the inflexibility of ISS regulations! ( which Malkis used to enforce to the letter while he was Executive Officer of Astrella! )

So I added a line wherein Malkis accuses Fleet Admiral Gutierrez of hypocrisy! He, like most Terrans, takes a very dim view of everything about the planet Tartarus!

Sometimes a major theme is identifiable right from the start of a manuscript. I'm finding this to be true while I'm working on the prequel, Malkis of Tartarus: the theme here---ALONE!

Early on, the marketing-analysis folks at Wheatmark ( my publisher ) advised me to change the title of Book One: Judgment on Tartarus---to use words like star or space in my title. Hmmm! Let's see: Dust-up in Space? Seeing Stars? Starring Outerspace? Lost in ---oh, wait! That's one's already been taken, as have most of the good titles using similar words! And none of them begin to tell a dang thing about my story!
I detest titles that mislead you or that don't even give you a hint of what a book's really about!

So I couldn't change the title of Judgment, I truly couldn't. One of its major themes is---surprise, surprise!---judgment! Having to make judgments, making errors in those judgments, judging other beings ( prejudice ), being judged guilty of a crime, and, yes, even facing the Final Judgment! So how the dickens could I in all honesty CHANGE the title? That just didn't make sense. Sometimes you have to go with your gut and stick up for what you know to be true, no matter what others may think, say, or do.

So stick to your guns, people! Like Davy Crockett said so many years ago: "Be sure you're right, and then go ahead!"

Amen to that!