Monday, February 29, 2016

Leap Day, The Day of All Seasons, and Luke

Happy Leap Day! I'm glad Leap Day fell on one of my normal blogging days, since it gives me an opportunity to share with you some of my early thoughts about the Season Avatars universe.

If you're unfamiliar with the Season Avatars series, it takes place in Challen, a country that is afflicted with a magical weather that mixes up the seasons--just like typical Midwestern weather in the early spring, but more extreme. In my first draft, this weather was called "Day of All Seasons," and it typically happened (if I remember properly) every four years, like a Leap Day. Currently, I call the magical weather "Chaos Season," which is much shorter and catchier (a plus when your first draft was about 170,000 words), and it can happen randomly (making life harder for my heroines).

Each heroine in the series is born on the first day of one of the seasons. The gods and goddesses of  Challen ensure that no one else in the country is born on that day. But what about if someone is born on the Day of All Seasons? In my original draft, that was a magical day, and no births occurred on it. If they did, the unfortunate child didn't live long. That was the case until Luke (nicknamed "Luke the Fluke" was born. He turned out to be the reincarnation of a magician who could do things the Season Avatars couldn't. Luke was young and not a very strong protagonist. In the current version of the story, he's been replaced by an artificer named Kron Evenhanded. His magic doesn't stem from a magical birthday; you'll have to read Seasons' Beginnings to learn more about him.

Do you do anything unusual to mark Leap Day? If so, feel free to share it in the comments.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Multibooking

Before I bought my first Kindle, I normally read one book at a time. These days, however, I typically read multiple books in multiple formats, depending on what's available. At home, I may focus on paper books (since I seldom take them anywhere to read). If I have library books checked out, they get first priority since I only have them for a few weeks. However, I may also have another paper book of my own in progress. (I admit they tend to be last in priority these days, which explains why I never make progress on my paper TBR pile.) Of course, I'll have another book in progress on my Kindle, which I'll read when my husband is driving us somewhere, at night in a darkened room, or wherever I may have a few minutes. I also have a Kindle app on my smartphone. While I can sync between the phone and my Kindle, I don't always have an Internet connection to do that. So there may be times when I have another e-book in progress on my phone. I even listen to audiobooks while I'm driving or doing chores. This means I could have four or five books in progress simultaneously! Multibooking (as I like to call it) may seem crazy, but somehow I manage to make it work.

Do you read multiple books at once? If so, do you read in different formats or all one format? Feel free to answer in the comments.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Blurb for Chaos Season

I still need to contact all of my beta reviewers from Scattered Seasons to see if they would like to read Chaos Season as well.Some other major tasks I need to do for Chaos Season are talk to Maria about the cover and format it properly, especially the Table of Contents. One thing I have done is work on the back cover text. Here's what I have so far:



Jenna Dorshay t’Reve isn’t your typical farmer’s daughter. Blessed with plant magic, she’s been impatiently waiting to take her place as Summer Avatar of Challen. All she and her sister Season Avatars have to do is tame a Chaos Season, a magical weather storm sent to Challen by a wrathful demigoddess. They’ve done this many times in other lives, but now strange plants resistant to Jenna’s magic make Chaos Season worse. Even the assistance of the War Avatar, father of Jenna’s child, may not be enough to stop the plants. Before Jenna can conquer the deathbushes and tame Chaos Season, she must fully link with the other three Avatars in her quartet, but to do so means revealing a secret that can tear them apart.
 
Does it pique your interest? Do you have any suggestions for wording changes? Please let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Who's the Real Parent of Science Fiction?

I normally don't read SF Signal, and I don't expect many of my blog readers do either. However, last week, a controversial post stirred up discussion among some of my Facebook friends and writer groups. This post, called "Staying on the Cutting Edge of Science Fiction," discussed only white male authors. (The author said later in the comments section that he didn't remember reading any women authors. I guess I should send him a free copy of SF Women A-Z.)

What especially caught my attention about this post was that the author credited Kepler with writing the first science fiction story, a piece called Somnium. (You can find it online here.) As a member of Broad Universe, I have always considered Mary Shelley's Frankenstein to be the first science fiction novel, and I do take pride in having her as an role model. (At one point, BU had buttons that had an image of Shelley with the slogan, "Who's Your Mama?") Obviously, however, Kepler predates her considerably. Does the history of science fiction matter today? Well, we can only view the past (and future) through the lens of our own present-day views. If that lens is distorted, we miss a lot of detail and voices that enrich history.

Kepler's work describes a trip to the moon (the traveler is carried by daemons) and what he imagines life on the moon to be like. The story is framed as a dream, perhaps to make it less challenging to authority.

As I read some more about the history of science fiction on Wikipedia (OK, it's a starting place, not the be-all and end-all of research), I came across another early forerunner of science fiction: The Blazing World, by Margaret Cavendish, who was not just a duchess, but a scientist and writer. Her work is from 1666, a few decades after Kepler's. Her work also describes a trip to another world (the lady traveler is taken from her home and travels by boat to the North Pole, where she crosses into a utopia and becomes its empress).

One odd thing about the history of science fiction is that the Wikipedia article lists a couple of 17th century works and several 19th century works, but only one from the 18th century, when the modern novel started to take shape. Was there less interest in scientific fiction during this period? If so, I'd like to know why.

I'm currently reading The Blazing World, despite the long, rambling sentences and changes in spelling over the centuries. I also plan to read Kepler's Sonmium so I can evaluate how well both books match what I think of as science fiction. Since I'm used to more recent works, my bias may still incline me toward favoring Shelley. Even if her work may not be the first to be based on science, the way she used contemporary scientific knowledge for a novel application is a step beyond what earlier works did. However, even if Shelley may not be the "mother of all science fiction," thanks to the article in SF Signal, I've rediscovered the grandmother of science fiction, and she seems like a very accomplished woman. Let's not forget any of the voices that helped shape this genre.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Songs of Chaos Season

I'm between fifty to sixty pages from the end of the second draft of Chaos Season. As you might expect, a Chaos Season (a magical weather storm that mixes up the seasons) will be involved in the climax. I'm not sure if anyone else has written a story with this concept, but the idea has actually (and independently) inspired a couple of songs. Here's Sting comparing his lover's moods to the seasons:



Crowded House, on the other hand, is more melancholy when it comes to changing seasons. After all, have you ever thought that "wherever there is comfort, there is pain"?



I got the original idea for Chaos Season back in the early 90s, long before I heard either of these songs. (Ideas can't be copyrighted, only the expression of an idea.) Have you ever discovered a song that reminded you of a story? If so, what was it?

Friday, February 12, 2016

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Hugo Recommendations

As a supporting member of last year's Worldcon, I'm eligible to nominate works for the 2016 Hugo. (That is, assuming I ever get my PIN for the process.) While many fans may not care who wins, the awards are still prestigious. Although I read a lot of books last year, I'm not sure how many of them were actually published in 2015. I also haven't read a lot of short stories, graphic novels, or related works. And of course I haven't had time to watch TV (besides what Alex has on) or seen any other movies besides The Force Awakens. So if you have any recommendations, please feel free to list them in the comments. Thanks!

Monday, February 08, 2016

Series Evolution

Last week, I read Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, the latest book in Lois McMaster Bujold's long-running Vorkosigan Saga. The series started thirty years ago and includes not just novels, but novellas and short stories. Most of the works revolve around the Vorkosigan family, in particular, Miles Vorkosigan. I wasn't sure at first I would like this series, since I don't read much military science fiction. However, Bujold not only mixes in a lot of humor, but she also incorporates other genres such as mystery and even romance. Although many of the stories feature Miles, other relatives (and even people with no link to him) are also point-of-view characters and even protagonists.

The characters in this series are neither ageless or changeless. The series starts long before Miles is even born, and in the latest book, he is in his mid-forties. The type of story he stars in has also evolved with the series. Some of his early stories were fast-paced and madcap, but various events have forced him to slow down. While I do miss the plots of the earlier works, it does make sense for his career to have changed over time. (I suppose I could always reread the series, but it's not the same when you already know what will happen.)

The latest book in the series is an autumnal romance, featuring Miles' mother as one of the protagonists. Some fans feel that Bujold has retconned a major character in this book, while others (myself included) feel that nothing happens plot-wise. (There are setups for conflict, but they fizzle out, IMO.) I have no idea if she intends this to be the last book. I think it does make sense for the themes and even the style to evolve as the series progresses. The difficult part is exploring new directions while giving fans what they want in these books. If Bujold does write more books in this world, I'd like to see her use POV characters from the latest generation. However, thirty years is a long time to work in a world, and if she has no more she wants to say about it, we have to respect that.

Speaking of series, I'm planning on releasing Chaos Season, Book Three of the Season Avatars series, this June. I'm targeting the summer solstice, since that is my main character's birthday, but of course I first have to finish revising the story before I focus on cover art, formatting, and all the publishing details.

What's the longest series you've read? Do you think it was uniformly good from start to finish? If so, why not?

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

IWSG: How Many Books?

If it's the first Wednesday of the month, it must be time for another Insecure Writers Support Group post. You can learn more about the group here.

One of the things I've been hearing lately on my self-publishing e-mail group is that it can take at least five books in one genre, subgenre, or series for an author, especially a self-published one, to become established, or at least start to see steady sales. (I looked on the Smashwords blog and Authorearnings.com for evidence to support this, but I didn't find any. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong places, or maybe this number is only based on anecdotes.) Of course, some authors may hit it big with their first book, while others may write lots of books and never develop an audience. But aiming for five books will definitely help develop your craft and make it easier to market your work. For example, if you have five books in a series, you can set your first book to free or a bargain price to attract readers and place ads. You can also bundle books together to make them more attractive.

No matter how many books you have out, perseverance is necessary to succeed as a writer. It can take a long time to write a book, and it can take a longer time to develop a fanbase. Keep writing and keep publishing even if nothing seems to be coming of it. Every book or story out in the world brings you closer to your goals.

How many books do you think is the right length for a series? Do you like open-ended series, or do you like them to end after a certain number of books? Will you read an unfinished series, or do you prefer to wait until all the books are out? Feel free to answer in the comments.



Monday, February 01, 2016

Report on the Elgin Literary Festival

Last year, the Elgin Literary Festival was spread out over three days and was held in several different locations throughout downtown Elgin. This year, it was held on a Friday evening and all day on Saturday. Although some Friday events took place at the local library, most panels and activities were in a single building.

This year, I had the opportunity to be part of a Speculative Fiction panel Saturday morning with mystery/fantasy author EM Kaplan. It was a small panel, with about six people in the audience and a moderator, but I think it went well. We kept it general, discussing such things as subgenres of science fiction/fantasy and character development. Some of the audience members were also writers, so we talked about cover design and publishing as well.

After the panel, I had about an hour to set up my table for the marketplace. (You can see my table above.) Book sales went about as well as I expected for a festival of this size and genre mix. The marketplace was only open for about two hours. It would have been nice to have more time for people to browse. I did get to hand out some bookmarks and tell people about Broad Universe.

Since we had plans in the evening, I wound up skipping the speakers and the closing reception. For me, the highlight of the festival was getting to see another writer friend of mine who was selling books in the marketplace and making contact with TS Rhodes, who blogs about pirates and writes a series about a young female pirate. I've invited her to contribute a guest blog here. The three of us may try to get a "Nuts and Bolts of Self-Publishing" panel together for next year's festival.

Are there any literary festivals in your area? If so, have you attended them or participated in them?

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