I Unpublished My FB Page

I unpublished my Facebook page- not my personal page, just the author one. I have a blog and Twitter, and that’s been helpful in connecting me with writing pals without the extra medium. In fact, it was just redundant… people who became personal FB friends were linking the page, but not too much traffic otherwise.

Plus, I just shared my author page with my friends anyway, so I was starting to feel silly.I see so many established authors using their personal pages as a way to connect to their friends/ readers, and I’m more comfortable with that approach.

So I’ll just keep writing and editing and being a fandom nerd-gal and see where that goes!

 

I Don’t think I Like Isaac Asimov

Zug_butterflybot

Illustrations by Mark Zug 

I feel like such a brat. I’ve spent a lot of time recently reading Asimov: I, Robot,Foundation, and a few shorts. My favorite is Nightfall (The short, not the book with Silverberg). I read it in college and loved the premise, loved the ending. It resonated. So, I tell myself, I need to read more Golden Age Asimov if I’m a TRUE FAN of science fiction right?

Well, I don’t regret reading his works, but I’m just not very enthusiastic about them. Whether it’s the Laws of Robotoics or the laws of Psychohistory, I put his books down feeling like I just read a textbook. Here are some rules, here are some possible, cold and calculated, eminently logical results of those rules, and then the book ends. The characters are like chess pieces instead of breathing people. We don’t, as readers, get to see much of what Hari Seldon really wants (I admit that I will add to my vocabulary, “For Seldon’s sake!” when I’m mad).

Perhaps the format of Foundation does not lend itself to good characterization, but after reading a Canticle for Leibowitz, I’m convinced that this format can be done well, and I don’t think Asimov quite made it. The premise requires constant jumps in time. One crisis averted, on to the next! I had the same trouble with I, Robot. Susan Calvin is an extremely interesting character, the thread that ties all of the robot stories together, and yet she’s not very likable. Asimov shows us one instance of her personality peeking through when her love interest dashes her hopes. She responds by vindictively (and understandably) lashing out at a robot who led her false. Every other view of her is her professional opinion, and she dies without leaving much of an impact. Just a cog in the wheel of history, a figure we are supposed to view as a museum relic.

And maybe that’s what Asimov is to my generation: a text showing the beginning of something great, because this speculative fiction thing has to start somewhere, right? I can now appreciate how derivative other works are, even if , in today’s world, Asimov doesn’t strike me as fresh. I think that’s ok.

Nerdy Things I’d Buy if I had Unlimited Funds

Yea, this stuff is cheesy but I guess I’m just a sucker.

starfleetdress

Starfleet TNG dress – comes in all three colors! Can buy  over at Thinkgeek

 

 

 

 

 

picardigan

The Captain Picardigan! Red here, pretty sure you can get other colors but red is the go-to for obvious reasons. Available at Her Universe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

nelsonhoodie

Nelson and Murdock sweatshirt at AllAboutRecords. Met them at comicon! Use code “comicon” to get 10% off!

 

 

 

 

enterpriseglasses

Enterprise glasses over at ThinkGeek

 

 

 

leia art

Leia art print by Karen Hallion- over at her etsy shop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Never Talk Back to Your Beta Reader

TIREFIRE

An actual tire fire. Curtesy of Mstyslav Chernov

So, say you’ve asked someone to read over a story you wrote.  What you’re looking for is reader reaction: how much enthusiasm does the average reader have for what you’ve written?  If something doesn’t work for them, they need to tell you so that you can figure out how to fix the problem.

It’s not a beta reader’s job to fix what didn’t work for them.

Read that again. Seriously. A reader is going to bring all of her own experience to your writing and it is going to form her opinion. If you get a bad review, better you know about it sooner than when that draft on the professional market. As you get better at writing, you are also going to be able to discern between actual problems with your story and an unreasonable misreading of your ideas.

And your job is not to fight a reader about their opinion.

And yea, that happens. I critique a few stories a week. Some authors are better than others, so if the author is pretty good I focus my review on their concept and point out things that I don’t think fit, always with the caveat of, “this is just my opinion.” And sometimes I get emails back from the author contesting my opinion.

Don’t. Do. That.

I don’t care if the opinion is rude, or says something insensitive like, “This story is a tire fire. Give up writing and go into middle management.” Beta readers are giving you their time and energy so that you can improve yourself.

The only things you need to say is THANK YOU, and then move on.

STOP EVERYTHING AND WATCH STRANGER THINGS

STRANGER THINGS

I just finished Stranger Things on Netflix and I’m here to urge you all to eschew all of your responsibilities like kids and work and housecleaning and to immediately view this with your eyeballs.  Set in the 80’s, the whole show has the enticing feel of a paperback novel you can’t put down.

The show transports you to the 80’s:  a world of cassette tapes and walkie-talkies that don’t work unless in range, landlines and large bicycles that allowed a kid to have free reign over a neighborhood. This show just wouldn’t have worked with cell phones and laptops. Stock characters abound, but you don’t mind. It’s comfortable. The popular and unpopular teens, the geeky middle schoolers playing Dungeons and Dragons, the single mom who works SO HARD, the wise and lovable science teacher, and the wounded yet capable sheriff who finds himself wrapped up in something bigger that shakes the foundation of a small, sleepy town.

And of course, NIGHTMARE MONSTERS!

Spoilers, now:

This show doesn’t just recycle what we’ve seen in 80’s sci fi already, that’s just the backdrop. The concept is fresh and utterly compelling. E.T. meets Stand By Me with a faceless, carnivorous monster that comes from the Upside-Down, a world that is parallel to ours and full of toxic air and the stuff of nightmares.  It’s an expert balancing act of the mundane and the extraordinary.

The show starts with the monster taking a boy, Will, and sets off everyone’s frantic search for him. The tension the show builds is just enough for the viewer to take. The scene where Winona Ryder’s character cries out for her son, “Where are you?” and he communicates to her with the lights: ‘Right Here’ followed by a cryptic: ‘RUN,’ as the monster literally comes through the wall makes for some magical television.

The characters are so well done that the comic relief they provide never feels out of place or canned. My favorite scene was near the end, when the teenagers join forces to kick monster ass. They bait it, beat it with baseball bats, shoot it, and catch it in a bear trap. That’s not enough to kill the thing, but the catharsis the scene provides is wonderful, and so earned.

This is very worth your time.This is the best Science Fiction series I’ve seen in a while, because it gets so many things right. A few loose ends go on untied at the end, but within reasonable parameters.

So call off work today. I mean it.

Kris Rusch and Terrible Contracts for Writers

PAPER
I realize that the debate between traditional publishing and self-publishing can be a bit divisive. I honestly don’t know what to think myself, as I’ve just started to look into the major differences. Self-publishing looks like a lot of work, but the bottom line might be worth it if the author has any business sense. But that’s the key, right? Most authors think agents will do all the work, and that’s probably not entirely true. What I do know is that traditional publishing has a dark side. Creators are cogs in the wheel, often cut out of royalties.

Kris Rusch, former editor of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and author of several short works and novels, has a great post about contracts and what to watch for:

These discount clauses—which the authors have freely signed—are the way that publishers are increasing their bottom lines. This is also why so many #1 New York Times bestselling authors are seeing their royalty rates decline. It’s not because the books sell fewer copies (although that’s happening as well); it’s because the authors are being paid less per copy sold—significantly less… If you insist on selling your book to a traditional publisher, especially one of the Big Whatevers, then accept that you will lose that book for the term of the copyright, and you will not get rich off that book’s sales even if the book is a bestseller.

So what’s a writer to do? If someone as established as Kris Rusch is blowing the whistle, then I think the answer is to go hybrid if you want to make a living at all:

If your goal is to be validated while you work another job, then go ahead, sign contracts with big traditional publishers. If your goal is to be a professional writer with a long-term career as a writer and no other job, you have to stay away from contracts and clauses like these.

Six SF/F Women Authors to Read This Summer

I’ve read some great stuff recently and thought I’d share my recommendations for those of you looking to find good reads this summer!

uprooted

Uprooted, Naomi Novik

Clear your schedule before reading this exciting, heartwarming, and utterly compelling fantasy: you will not put the book down until you have reached the last page.

I found myself transfixed and beguiled; I eschewed all personal hygiene, eating and sleeping (even ignoring the demands of my children) in order to see what would happen next. Novik’s writing style is easy and light without sacrificing gravity. Most fantasy novels that I’ve read bog me down with world-building: such-and-such a political structure is explained, a magic system’s rules listed like it’s a cookbook, long journeys where characters do nothing but eat and sleep and describe forests or sing songs that, quite frankly, I just skim over. Uprooted demands attention with every paragraph, the world and its rules fit the characters like comfortable sweaters, inviting the reader to become the story’s confidant. It is a tale that is at the same time grim and dark and seeped in magic of the old world, yet light and amusing and full of vivacious characters that resonate.

We follow the heroine Agnieszka (ag-NYESH-kah), a peasant girl who lives in a valley haunted by a treacherous power called the Wood. The valley is watched over by a wizard called the Dragon who resides in a tower cut off from the people. Every ten years he takes a girl from the valley to his tower, for an unknown purpose. The girl is always allowed to leave, but she never returns to her home. The story begins here, when the Dragon comes to choose the next girl, and all of the parents huddle in trepidation, hoping it won’t be one of their daughters.

 

shardsShards of Honor, Lois McMaster Bujold

A solid, clean, sci-fi adventure filled with intrigue, romance, and engaging planetary exploration. That sounds like a typical sci-fi plot, with all of the right ingredients, but the book doesn’t feel like that when you’re reading it. Bujold manages to write engaging dialogue that is informative and weighty without being obviously expository. There are little pearls of wisdom sprinkled throughout the book, things like, “The inept need rules for their own protection,” or, “Leadership is power over imagination,” to mention a few great quotable lines that struck me.

The main character is Cordelia Naismith, a captain of a survey ship (basically: science officers) exploring a newly discovered planet. She ends up marooned with an injured enemy crewman, a commander left for dead by a traitorous political rival. The two have to work together, and end up in love.

 

doomsdayDoomsday Book, Connie Willis

This book is intelligent and engaging, a story about history, disease, and eucatastrophe. Time travel plots, in my experience, are either maudlin romances or cautionary tales that end in the utter destruction of the character or civil structure they inhabit. While Willis gives the reader catastrophe after catastrophe, it all comes together for a perfect ending that pulled on my heartstrings.

Willis gives us two time periods to follow and the two stories collide perfectly at the end, making the book very exciting and addicting. It’s hard to talk about the plot without spoiling it, but the concept is very well thought out and executed: Kivrin is a history student in the year 2054 who wants to get permission to go back in time to observe the 1300s while disguised as a local. Every precaution has been taken, but once she steps through, the people she leaves behind in the future come down with a terrible influenza epidemic. Did Kivrin let something through? Until they know, the academics shut down the time machine, trapping her. And that’s just the beginning.

 

broken-starsThese Broken Stars, Aime Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

I didn’t expect to like this book so much, but it’s a very well done character story, written for a teen audience, and I thought it was very nice. The setup is pretty predictable: a cynical war hero and the daughter of the richest man alive end up marooned on a planet after their spaceliner crashes. (And yea, the ship is named ‘The Icarus’ … what were they expecting?) They of course end up together, but the writing style is very engaging and light, unpacking a myriad of issues that can be discussed with younger readers that might be new to Sci-fi. The issues cover class and race, the consequences of colonization and industrialization, to name a few. If I was still writing high school level curriculum I’d be able to come up with great essay and discussion topics.

As for adults, they’ll just enjoy it, even if it’s a bit predictable at times.

 

Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers, Alyssa Wong (Short Story)

This was a short story published in Nightmare magazine, so if horror/SF mashups aren’t your cup of tea, you won’t like it. I think what struck me most about Wong’s style is how perfectly she captured the visceral sense of hunger and the sort of stomach-rolling descriptions of a character chewing, vomiting, or savoring a bite. The main character feeds on bad thoughts, so the worse the individual, the more pleasurable the meal. Check it out if you have the inclination!

If you have a woman SF/F writer you’d like to suggest, let me know in the comments!