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Woman with battle axes approaches ruins at sunset

 

Action Tales I

Three tales of action and adventure.

River Flight

A princess turned soldier, Boatman Juliette faces her greatest challenge.  Her father, dead.  Her uncle, plotting against her. She must make a treacherous race up a river to reach the palace. The enemy waits, ready for an ambush. An exciting story that will keep you turning pages until the end.

Booby-Trap at Beaver River

Private Penelope Prescott wants respect. One of the women recruited to fill war losses, she gets no respect from her fellow soldiers. But now her regiment is fleeing enemy forces and a booby-trap lays in their path.  The regiment’s survival rests on her. She faces insurmountable obstacles to save the regiment in this chilling tale of adventure.

A Quartet of Clowns

With the fog comes death. Ilya smells it coming.  The last time?  Her mother, a clown, died. Now the circus arrives, hunting what lurks in the fog.  Ilya must embrace her mother’s legacy before death takes her. A chilling fantasy short story that keeps you turning pages.

Honorable mention recipient in the Writers of the Future contest.

Available from your favorite booksellers!

 

Astronaut woman on planet's surface

Cursed Planet: GALCOM Universe Book 3

Who knew ghosts could exist in heavy gravity? Hope Delgado, the galaxy’s only alien ghost expert, confronts her toughest challenge on S.C. Kangjun’s latest mission.

The local aliens, 49ers, blame the humans for a ghost.  And they hide a deadly secret.  A secret they will kill to protect.

Hope must make a desperate last stand against the aliens and the ghosts—if she fails, her friends will die.

A science fiction novel of deep space thrills and adventures.

Available now! Pick your favorite eReader flavor for a copy!

Next up in the series is Last Stand.

A mermaid by a coral reef

Here Be Merfolk

The call of the deep rings ever in our ears, from myth and legend to crime and mystery. Sea-people, mer and monster, immortals and reluctant heroes feature in this sea-worthy bundle.

This a bundle featuring novels and short stories by such writers as Alan Dean Foster, Debbie Mumford, and of course me.  My story is Dark, From the Sea.

Available from your favorite booksellers.

Cover shows a hand with a digital key hovering over it

 

Digital Minimalism: Reduce Clutter  on Your Computer Now

f you feel constantly overwhelmed by the amount of files…if you waste time looking for files you know you saved somewhere…

You’re not alone.  I’ve been there.

Between a full time day job with mounds of paperwork every day and indie publishing, I was drowning in files.  Not only couldn’t I find files  I’d saved, it was like walking into a cluttered room.  I was miserable and stressed out.

There had to be a better way!

I’m not a productivity expert.  But in this book, I’m going to share with you what I did to get my files in order and stop being overwhelmed.

Available from your favorite booksellers.

Next week Part IV of World Building


I’m sorry for the delay, but the final part of the world building workshop will be next Tuesday.

World Building (Part III)


This is part III of Kevin J. Anderson’s world building workshop at Superstars.  All the parts are connected together, so order is important.  As I mentioned earlier, these are just categories to think about what you need for the story.  Not everything might be needed, depending on the story.

Politics

Pretty much, this one is starting with thinking about what the government of your fictional place is.  If it’s a fantasy, is it a monarchy?  How does the succession work?  We always think the son or daughter would be next in line.  But if it wasn’t?

In a series I read, the church of elemental mages was the government.  They had a council, though it seemed that the most powerful got on the council.  The most powerful aren’t always who should be in charge.  There can be a lot of interesting conflict with this!

Economics

What do people do for a living?  Some of that will be influenced by geography  Like Alexandria, Virginia sits on the Potomac River.  So there are ships coming in, which means that men make money crewing on a ship.  There might be a shipyard nearby, building more ships.  Horse-drawn wagons would make deliveries, so people to care for the horses and blacksmiths for horse shoes.  And, of course, a tavern nearby to eat a meal and spend the night.

Climate is also an influence on the economics.  Virginia has a good climate for growing tobacco, which adds to the economy.  (Really helpful is to base the world on a real place and its history.  Then you can just use that knowledge without as much research.  But better still, the research might be visiting historical sites).

Another question to ask is valuable to the society?  In the book department, the spice in Dune.

Economics drives the characters and the story.

Societies

This one goes into how people are treated in the society.  How are the people treated?  Is there a class system?  Are there slaves?  Some slaves might be prisoners of war.  They work until someone buys their freedom.

What about family size?  Large? One child per family?  When I was researching for Rogue God, I thought it was fascinating that the Hawaiians of the past would have a large family party to honor the birth of a baby.

Are the people happy or fearful?  That’s likely influenced by the politics.  There’s always a fantasy story with a corrupt lord or duke taking all the money and goods as taxes.

How does communication work?  Telepathy?  Magic? Courier pigeon? King’s messenger?

Is the military volunteer or.   draft?

What do people do for leisure?  Do they gamble?  What kind of games do they play?  Do they do drugs?  Play sports?  The first thing I thought of was Battlestar: Galactica (the original).  The characters play a game like basketball only more violent.  But a book example: Harry Potter and Quidich.  Again, basing this on a real place is a great way to pick up details without having to make a lot of stuff up from scratch.  Maryland was big with horse racing (in recent years, it seems to be fading as a sport).

More for next week: Religion, Intellectual/Science.Arts, and History.

And I highly recommend Dean Wesley Smith’s Research workshop. It makes the prospect of world building far less intimidating.

World Building (Part II)


This is the next part in Kevin J. Anderson’s world building masterclass.  The different parts are supposed to be figured out in order.  So Geography, or setting, is first, and easily the most important.  Next up–

Climate

The discussion on climate was pretty interesting.  I didn’t have any idea how much climate influenced elements of culture.  I grew up in Los Angeles, and the weather was always one season.  What I called winter hardly matched what I encountered outside of Los Angeles.  I didn’t even see snow until I was 25 (and in another state).

For example, in a hotter climate, people would be more laid back because they’re drained from the heat.  Yup, remember that in Los Angeles.  Got that when I went to New Orleans last August.  Got that when I went to Mexico a few years back–and I went in winter.  I can only imagine how hot it would be in the summer!

That influences clothing.  Most notably, I’m in Virginia.  It was very cold yesterday and I was in shorrt sleeves.  I have a lot of trouble wearing long sleeves.  I constantly want to roll them up.  Because I never wore long sleeves in L.A.   In Hawaii, the weather is so nice all year round that the islanders originally wore very little, which horrified the very buttoned up missionaries.  Now they have loose-fitting Hawaiian shirts and mu-mus.

Climate also influences houses.  The houses in Los Angeles are built with stucco, which is cool in summer (had no idea).  Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, this house was built for both the cold winters and the humid summers.  The walls are stone and double walled, much like a submarine.  There are many fireplaces.  We had those in L.A, too, but not as many (more common to see swimming tools in backyards from airplanes landing).  The porches are made so they can let snow in during the winter, and not let bugs in during the summer.  The interior has one long hallway, with a door at each end for natural air conditioning.  George Mason’s house in Virginia has that same feature.

Picture of Victorian house with one tower

Food is also influenced by climate.  Just take Hawaii–they have all the beautiful fruits that grow in that sunshine.  They have a thriving coffee industry (because of geography, as in volcanic rock).  In Los Angeles, the heat brings hot spices, because that was used to hide the fact the meat might be going bad.  I had my character Hope Delgado in Cursed Planet come from Lower California (in the future, the state breaks into two at the North and South line).  So she likes spicy food because that’s what she grew up with.

The characters not only interact with their setting, but also with the weather.  It’s also a great opportunity for the five senses, which build character.

Next up: Politics, Economics, and Societies.

 

World Building (Part I)


I had a request on my Superstars post to talk about the workshop I took from Kevin J. Anderson on world building.  I’d stayed away from fantasy for a long time because every time the topic came up, it was along the lines of “Get a three ring binder and some tabs” and then answer a ton of questions.  I didn’t even know what the story was until I wrote it.  How was I was supposed to come up with all of the answers?

I sort of pantsed my way into world building–some of of it kicking and screaming.  I read so much writing advice that dissed the building block of world building at it’s very basic level.  In fact, there was a post by a former NY editor that pretty much said description is a waste of time.

No description = no world.

And that applies even to a modern day mystery set in Los Angeles, not just a fantasy.

Just read Michael Connelly’s Bosch books. Seriously.  It is steeped in Los Angeles.  And it adds another level of enjoyment to the story.

Kevin learned how to do world building through gaming.  He was hired to write up the world for the games.  The person who hired him gave him a list of categories and told him to come up with information for the games.  He also noted that you might not need all the categories, depending on the story.

The first and most important category….

Geography

This is your basic setting the story and the character exist in.  I remember going to a con a few years back, and they said that every city has a reason for being where it is.

Like Alexandria, Virginia.  I went there on Saturday for the Farmer’s Market.  Alexandria is also called Old Town because it’s a historic city.  George Washington slept there–literally.  He actually had a townhouse.

The town sits on the Potomac River.  You wouldn’t know it from the photo below, but it was a major shipping port.

Potomac River

Now people anchor their pleasure boats at the docks and the river floods the lower half of the street at high tide.  But during the 1700s, it was place where merchants shipped a big Virginia product, tobacco.

Rivers draw merchants and ships, and by both those, towns.

Additionally, the Potomac is such a big river that there are tributaries all over the area…Doctor’s Run, Four Mile Run, Gulf Run, etc.  A place near me on Four Mile Run used to have a mill in George Washington’s time.  Not much to look at now, since the remains of the mill is a pile of rubble and there’s a road bridge over the top of it.

The terrain also consists of a lot of hills.  Water runs downhill to the rivers and tributaries.  Characters might have to walk up or down a hill.

A writer annoyed me because she set a story in a place I’d been to frequently Morro Bay, California.  There’s some distinct land features there, including a giant rock that you can see from a long ways off.

Morro Rock from the docks

Morro Rock (that’s the photo on my computer desktop)

The harbor is the most dangerous in the world.  It was also used by the Navy in World War II.  All the streets are on a mountainside and roll down toward the harbor.  My grandparents house was downhill in two different directions.

And did the writer mention any of this?  Heck, she didn’t even mention the town sat by the Pacific Ocean.  Which is why her books annoyed me.

So this category is thinking about what geographic elements the setting has.  Doesn’t necessarily have to be written down, or a list of questions.  But some ideas for the story can come right out of these details.

But in thinking this through, I’ll add a piece of this that a lot of writers tend to ignore: How character navigates through the geography. 

I’ve seen many fantasy books where the character gets on some variation of the King’s Highway and gets to where they’re going.  If a character doesn’t have a GPS, or even a map, they are going to have other ways to navigate.   I’ve been researching this for my fifth GALCOM book, Giant Robots.  Lots of interesting stuff.

Geography can provide a lot of different elements to a story.

Superstars Writing Conference


 

Guest panelists at Superstars
Let’s see if I can get most of the names: Left- Rebecca Moesta, Eric Flint, Mark Leslie Lefebvre, Donald Maass (pronounced Mah-s), Dave Farland, Beth Meecham, Seanan McGuire, and Kevin J. Anderson.

I had the pleasure of attending my first Superstars Writing Seminar this year.  It was in Colorado Springs, so I got to visit my uncle who lives there.  It was a very different experience from any other conference I’ve been to, including work conferences.  We were told right from the start to go out to eat together…to look for a group of people from the conference and join them.  When I first arrived, the person who came in with me put it out on Facebook that we were eating in the restaurant, and next thing we know, the table was full!

Superstars is a writing conference for more advanced level writers.  It is generally on the business side of writing, though they had a craft fest this year as well.  Off to my adventures.

Adventures in the high altitude

The first two nights, by the time I got to the end of the day, it was like I was drunk.  I was staggering around and tripping over everything.  The first night, I took off my shoes in my hotel room, stumbled over them every single time I walked back and forth.  So I put them in a corner, out of the way.

And lost them!

The next morning, I could not find my shoes!  The altitude addled my brain.  My first thought was that someone had stolen them.  Then I sort of worked into the realization that no one had gotten into the room, so the shoes were in here.  But where?   I finally found them in the corner.  The carpet was a very dark green, so my black shoes were actually very well camouflaged (pesky shoes were trying to go Army on me).

Garden of the Gods Tour

I went up a day or so early because I wanted to go on the Garden of the Gods tour.  Kevin got a bunch of drivers together and we carpooled out.  The sky was a clear blue, with the sun creating wonderful shadows on the rocks.  It was also very windy and cold.  We meandered on the paths, stopping to take a picture at an intersection that also was a wind tunnel.  These were some of the incredibly beautiful rock formations (the rock was much more reddish-orange than the photo shows).

Rock with three pillars

Craft Fest

My first actual day of the conference was a Craft Fest, which was in its second year, I believe.  This was an addition to the regular conference.  We all attended two workshops, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.  I did Kevin J. Anderson/Rebecca Moesta’s workshop on World Building in the morning and Jeffrey , commercial fiction in the morning.  I wished I had the WB workshop much earlier–I was scared off fantasy because all I heard was that to build a world you needed a three ring binder, some tabs, and had to answer tons and tons of questions.  This was a much simpler variation.

I picked the commercial fiction because it was Jeffrey Deaver and I thought I could get something out of it even though I’m indie.  In hindsight, I should have picked one that was more flexible for the indie side, so maybe something more craft focused.  For the record, he spends 8 months writing an outline before he does the book and spends thousands to get it edited before it goes to the publisher.

The Conference Itself

By the time the conference started, I was enough over the altitude sickness and time zone difference that I was no longer a zombie.  The conference was split into traditional and indie, like with workshops on what agents and editors look for in your opening and guerrilla marketing.  I really found the workshops on Amazon useful. I’d heard some of the basic principles, but not really explained well–and especially not for fiction writers.  It was also at a much higher level than what I’ve been seeing,  I promptly decided I wasn’t going to attend the Philadelphia book marketing conference in November because it was too basic and too focused on non-fiction.

The VIP Dinner

I signed up late for the VIP Dinner because of the additional cost, but I’m glad I did.  I sat with Mark Leslie Lefebvre (Draft2Digital) and Tara Cremin (Kobo), which was my first pick.  Did we talk marketing or coming trends?  No.  We talked ghosts!  It was a lot of fun.

The restaurant also went way, way out of the way to accommodate diners with food allergies and sensitivities.  I’m gluten and dairy free and I had a really hard time on a cruise.  The cruise often couldn’t figure out what to do for desert, so their default was fruit.  I expected that here.  But the restaurant actually had deserts that worked with the food sensitivities.  So I was seriously impressed.

I’m already signed up for the next one.  If you’re interested, use the referral code LADAMS (discounts for me, but you get a referral code too).  There’s a very good payment plan, especially if you sign up very early for it.

 

 

On Hiatus this week and next


I’m going to be on hiatus from the blog this week and next–but it’s for a good reason I’m going to post here later.

Interview for Here Be Merfolk Bundle


A.L. Butcher just posted up an interview with me on her blog.  I used to watch actor David Hedison do interviews (his were always in person) and it was pretty cool to see, so it’s fun for me to think about what I want to say.  Anyway, drop in and have a loook.

Tootsie Roll Connection to Marines


A fun bit of history from Harvey Stanbrough:

How Tootsie Rolls Accidentally Saved Marines During the Korean War

Digital Minimalism: Reduce Clutter on Your Computer Now


Cover shows a hand with a digital key hovering over it

If you feel constantly overwhelmed by the amount of files…if you waste time looking for files you know you saved somewhere…

You’re not alone.  I’ve been there.

Between a full time day job with mounds of paperwork every day and indie publishing, I was drowning in files.  Not only couldn’t I find files  I’d saved, it was like walking into a cluttered room.  I was miserable and stressed out.

There had to be a better way!

I’m not a productivity expert.  But in this book, I’m going to share with you what I did to get my files in order and stop being overwhelmed.

Available from your favorite booksellers.