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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Original---or Sin?

For me the hardest part of writing a novel or short story has always been coming up with an original idea. Yeah, I realize all too well that very little in this world is truly original and we are all the sum of all our experiences. Whatever we write is bound to be influenced by what we've seen, heard, read and is at least a bit derivative. But putting an original twist on a less-than-original idea is a good thing---if the twist truly is original. Unfortunately, most new writers don't have enough reading background to recognize what's been done to death and, therefore, must be avoided like the Lamidian plague!

It's important for me to note here that no one can copyright an IDEA!  So, for instance, if your plot is boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back, that basic plotline may be identical to many others but that doesn't make you a plagiarist! But if you copy lines, paragraphs, or even whole pages from someone else's work and attempt to pass it off as your own, you're looking for trouble. Pretty much all printed work is copyrighted.

No author worth his or her salt will stoop to borrowing from or "cloning" someone else's work. I don't see how anyone with a conscience could do that. I have no personal experience of plagiarism in writing ( but know it has been done ); however, in the art world of which I was formerly a part, I can recall two instances where another artist's plagiarism was exposesd at art exhibitions.

So when I'm in the process of writing a new novel, I tend to cease reading for the time being, taking care not to expose myself to charges of inadvertent plagiarism or being unduly influenced by other work. If sometime thereafter I happen to come across an idea similar to my own, I can shrug and truthfully say, "Great minds think alike!"

And just for insurance, I always keep copies of my early drafts---just in case!

Keep on plugging,


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

From The Hobbit to Harry

Believe it or not, I do read things other than science fiction, and I fully admit to being  a huge Harry Potter fan. I've read all the books through several times over, have a collection of the movies to date, as well as a few busts and sculptures that are movie-related. And I can hardly wait until the final installment is released!

Since I first learned to read, I was enthralled by fantasy fiction, although there wasn't much of it available when I was a kid ( and even less SF for children! ) During my college years I got hooked on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I think I can recognize a classic when I read one, and I believe the Harry Potter books fall into that category and should and will be enshrined among them.

The latest "Harry" development, of course, is that J.K. Rowling has just made her books available as e-books---along with a few fun gadgets for her fans. I hope that the popularity of books such as Harry Potter will lead future generations of children to grow up with a life-long love of reading ( in whatever form! )

I must agree with Rona Scott in Chapter Two of Judgment on Tartarus: reading is a painless way to broaden your education---as well as being just plain ol' FUN!

Read away, then!


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Early Readers

Harking back to one of my previous blogs, I recently learned that one of my ten-year-old grandsons has started reading Judgment on Tartarus and has joined the crew of Astrella! His mother, my daughter, read the book first and okayed it for him. This boy loves to read!  He's one of those who doesn't want to go to bed if he's reading.

One of my goals is to encourage readers to explore their own creativity, whatever form it takes, and it's never too young to start. From a very early age I drew or wrote on every scrap of paper I could get my hands on---brown paper bags, old envelopes---everything! I made up poems and songs and stories. I play-acted with my dolls and paper dolls.

And I read books like they were going out of style ( which I hope they are not! ) I read every single book in the children's section of the local library, then started on the adult section. I read my favorites over and over again. My love of books led me to write my first complete novel at the age of eleven. I typed it out with one finger on an old manual typewriter. Yes, Virginia, those were the days before computers and laptops!

That first novel, as rudimentary as it was, led to a fascination with writing and a love of the Spanish language---which I went on to study in High School. (My Spanish is a bit rusty now, que lastima! ) But both reading and writing have enriched my life in untold ways, and, I hope, always will.

Keep on reading!


Monday, June 27, 2011

Tasteful vs. Graphic

Seems to me there's a great deal of graphic sex in many novels being published today, much more so than in the "olden" days! While I don't mind so much if it's an integral part of the plot, I don't approve if it's only thrown in quite obviously to "spice up" the book. For me, that's a no-no.

In my books my characters' love-lives are, for the most part, strictly private. I respect them enough to grant them their privacy in certain areas. We've all read books where, in an attempt to achieve "realism", every gritty detail of life is included---not pleasant to read and almost always completely unnecessary to the story being told.

Stephenie Myer's "Twilight" saga is one example of a well-handled, tasteful occult romance. The two main characters, a teenage girl and a hundred-year-old vegetarian vampire, fall in love, wait until marriage, then conceive an unusual child as an integral part of the plot. Every scene is tactfully depicted; in this situation we don't need all the graphic details. In my opinion that would add absolutely nothing to the story.

As you will soon be reading ( I hope! ) True Son of Tartarus has some tasteful love scenes. And there are a few other type of scenes that are not so pleasant, examples of evil run amuck. In this case, the brutality can't be avoided, since True Son is largely about the battle between good and evil. Nothing is included to sensationalize or "spice things up". Did a lot of soul-searching about this and won't know how well I succeeded until I get readers' feedback.

All for now,


Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Comic Book Summer

I spent many a summer reading comic books. Looks like some great SF movies coming out this summer based upon comic book heroes, among them: X-Men First Class, Green Lantern, Captain America. Unfortunately, I never got into these three, but my husband did. He's a serious collector of comics and graphic novels, and I dare say an expert on the subject. Super-heroes like Superman, Batman,Spiderman, and Iron Man, as well as the more recent Thor, have proven successful at the box office. Therefore, I'm willing to bet we'll see more films based upon comic and graphic novel heroes.

It may sound like an oxymoron, but those that take comic books seriously tend to be more successful. Try to cheat the fans or take the attitude that they are simpletons and the box office will take the hit. Personally, I think movie-makers are missing a sure bet by pretty much ignoring fantasy ( with the notable exceptions of The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia! ) Yes, I know The Hobbit, Parts 1 and 2 are coming---ostensibly to be titled Unexpected Journey and There And Back Again. But there are many more classic fantasies that haven't yet been tapped. If you haven't seen pics from The Hobbit, there are links on my Judgment on Tartarus fb wall.

I live in hope that SF and F will someday be taken more seriously by the general public and become more popular.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Hard vs. Soft

Not all science fiction is created equal! By that I mean that there is an SF book to suit all tastes; many sub-genres exist, so if you don't appreciate what is generally referred to as "hard" SF---which is primarily based upon advanced technology and scientific principles and theories---there is plenty of "soft" SF out there, including space opera.

Although I've read quite a bit of hard SF ( for example, Larry Niven's Ringworld comes to mind ), I actually prefer to read and write "soft" SF---as well as a bit of space opera. If you don't enjoy reading the hard stuff, I recommend Zenna Henderson's People books---actually a compendium of her short stories about a group of aliens who land on Earth and pass themselves off as humans. They have some extraordinary powers, such as levitation and causing musical instruments to play by themselves.

I dearly wish someone would base a movie on that series; it would undoubtedly bring viewers to tears. Some of those stories are so heart-breaking I can barely get through them! They are definitely NOT your typical SF. And if you like dragons, I suggest you check out Anne McCaffrey's Dragonrider series, especially Dragonflight, one of my all-time favorites. I've been hoping for many years now that these books would be filmed; dragon-tech is now so advanced ( ala Harry Potter, Avatar, and Reign of Fire ) that the movie would be spectacular! Well, I can always dream.

All for now,


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ups and Downs

Well, Judgment on Tartarus seems to have settled in around the 300,000 mark on's Kindle sales ranking. That is still about the top third of their sales, so I shouldn't be unhappy with my ranking. The book sales, however, have dropped off---down around the one million mark. I try not to let this discourage me. Others I know who sell things over the internet have reported their sales are also down.

This could possibly be due to at least two main factors: the rotten economy and the summer doldrums---when people are too busy to read much and would rather travel or go to the beach! Can't say I blame them. I'm hoping that after the season passes book sales, both regular and Kindle, may pick up once again.

On the positive side, of those from whom I received feedback, not a single person hasn't enjoyed reading Judgment on Tartarus. Most loved it so much that they can't wait for the publication of True Son of Tartarus. If all goes well, it should be coming out within the next couple months. I'm hoping that having two books of the eventual trilogy in print will increase sales. Evidently, many readers prefer getting involved in a multi-book universe. As I've told you previously, after the entire trilogy has been published, I'm planning on two prequels, the first to be titled Malkis of Tartarus, and the second, Hero of the Gorgonian Wars. So far, Malkis of Tartarus is in a draft stage yet to be finalized, and Hero exists only as a random bunch of notes, timelines, and brief scene sketches.

Should keep me busy and out of trouble for some time to come! Thanks again to everyone who has let me know how eager they are for True Son to come out!


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Judgment Suitable for Teens?

I know of a few teens who have already started reading Judgment on Tartarus---no feedback on the subject yet. But that has led me to wonder if the book is suitable for teen readers. Or even pre-teens, as one of my daughters has recommended it to her ten-year-old son! Young adults---absolutely no problem. But I'd advise exercizing parental judgment for kids as young as thirteen or below.

Judgment has some adult content, but no graphic sex, and the profanity is limited mostly to stuff you'd hear on regular TV these days---and is nowhere near as "colorful" as that commonly used in present-day military! In regard to violence, however, there is one death by poison---only described in dialog rather than actually depicted. But there are two rather graphic fight scenes which both end in a bloody death.

On the positive side, Judgment on Tartarus' themes include the nature of love, loyalty, self-sacrifice, honor, friendship. performing one's duties to the best of one's abilities, and refraining from prejudging others. My best recommendation is for parents to read the book first before deciding whether your child would benefit from reading it or not. Different people mature at different ages, and some can handle more than others. One size definitely does not fit all! I don't write specifically for any one age group or gender.

Enjoy if you will!


Sunday, June 12, 2011

My Pet Peeves

As a writer, there are several things that drive me absolutely wild! Number one: when I first tell someone that I've written and published my first novel, that person immediately chimes in with, "Oh, I write, too! And I'm thinking of writing a novel!" Upon hearing that, my first thought is: Oh, really? Have you any inkling of how HARD it is to write anything worth reading? I'm tempted to quote Dr. Ben Bova at them: "Writers don't use ink, they use their own blood."

Writing truthfully takes everything you have within you: your talent, determination, education, intelligence, heart, and guts! Everyone is NOT a writer any more than everyone is a cardiologist!

The second beef I have is with editors or others who critique books with the attitude that THEY know much better than the author how to write this particular book! I'm not criticizing editors who make the inevitable corrections in spelling or grammar---we can all use help with the minutia.; however, I object to those who think they have every right to tinker with the entire concept, the setting, the characters, even the type of language in which the writer expresses himself or herself---or God-forbid!---the genre itself!

To such individuals I say: Go write your own darn book and stop trying to make mine into something it's not!

Now I fully realize that when a new writer starts out, they often need a lot of help. Over the years I've read many good books on how to write successful science fiction, and they did help me immensely---because I took them seriously. And sometimes it can be difficult to recognize the flaws in your own work, which is why I have a reliable first reader whose opinion I value. But that does not mean that every critique is valid. I have to weigh each point and examine it for validity.

Lastly, I think I hate it most of all when someone dismisses my work, without reading it, with a phrase such as: "Oh, I don't read science fiction." As if they are above such meaningless fluff! I'm tempted to remind them that some of the greatest minds of the last century wrote science fiction; the late Dr. Isaac Asimov comes to mind---the man was an absolute genius! Unfortunately, I am not, but I love what I do, I do it well, and I do everything within my power to make my books as good as they can be. I don't think I'm wrong to expect at least some modicum of respect for my integrity as a writer.

Whatever your field of endeavor, I'm sure you have similar beefs or peeves! Please let me know,


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Freaky Word Day!

Every now and then I allow myself to become discouraged ( don't we all? ). What I tend to get discouraged about is whether or not I should be writing what I'm writing. I tend to second-guess myself and often find myself debating over a particular word or phrase. And it's absolutely freaky how many times I've been thinking like that when, out of the blue, I hear the very word---or even the entire phrase!---suddenly spoken aloud.  Sometimes the voice comes from the TV or the music I'm listening to as I write, or sometimes it comes from someone in the room who's paying no attention to me. It's as though someone somewhere is on the same wavelength and encouraging me not to change my wording!

This has happened to me fairly frequently and always gives me a little jolt, like electricity running through me! Now don't get me wrong---I do not believe that every word I write is perfect or even correct. I double check things like that constantly because it's so easy to make a mistake. No, this phenomenon usually occurs when I'm questioning whether what I'm writing is appropriate or even worthwhile. Instinctively, I can't help but take these occurences as some kind of affirmation that I'm writing what I should be writing.

Sounds crazy, I know, but so far my readers seem to believe that, too!


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Are We Having Fun Yet?

To answer that---yes, we are! It's been quite a while since I read Ransom of Tartarus through, so it's like reading a new book! Always exciting! Even writers tend to forget what they've written, and I'm no different. So even the difficult first edit has become more fun than usual! Whether future edits will find me so enthusiastic remains to be seen, but for now I'm a very happy camper.

The plot of Ransom is a bit more complicated than the previous two books, more intrigue, more characters involved (but I try to keep them to a reasonable number, almost all have been introduced in the previous books, and some meet their demise before the end! ) There's also a lot more action than in the first two, so, if I could hazard a guess, I'd say it's a bit more of a "boy's book"! So far, I must admit, no one has accused the other two books of being "girly"---maybe because I've never been a girly-girl, but a tomboy who loved hunting and fishing and climbing trees ( despite a huge fear of heights! )

So, must get back to work now---deep in part three ( Prophecy Fulfilled ) and nearing the end of the trilogy.
I can't wait to hear readers' reactions when True Son comes out and, finally, when Ransom is published!

All for now,