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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.