Monkey River


Tall ship on the sea
SHORT STORY: When I went to Honduras on my first cruise, we sailed up a river and listened to these frightening snorts that sounded like a giant animal was coming for us. It was a monkey! Needless to say…

Pap thinks the worst of his problems is getting stuck with a green officer from the King’s Militia.  They’re out in the middle of nowhere, and officers hate nowhere.

Then Pap’s partner Ariana, a cartographer mage, discovers an entire fleet waiting on the river.  To attack?  Nowhere is suddenly becoming very dangerous.

A fantasy short story available from your favorite booksellers.

Granny Logic


A woman on a pier, holding an umbrella over her face
SHORT STORY: I broke my right foot. Terribly inconvenient. But it inspired this story.

It’s ‘take your granny on stakeout day’ for Erin King.
With a broken right foot, everything is hard for Erin.  Going through doors, getting around town,  investigating fraud.  The case is already difficult enough, and now Erin needs a chauffeur. Her weight-lifting grandmother is ready to pitch in…and offer investigating tips.  Erin doesn’t just have doubts about solving the case but surviving the stakeout.

A Granny PI mystery short story available from your favorite booksellers.

Theater Ship


A spaceship hovers above an alien landscape, a planet in the background
A woman actor ages out of roles much faster than men. So my character takes to space travel to continue doing what she loves.

Actress Catherine Mason is old enough that Hollywood no longer wants her, so she performs theater in space for the soldiers.  But it’s dangerous duty for the actors.  As they land on a military post, Catherine discovers the aliens are watching.  She’s about to give the performance of her life, if not her life.

A science fiction short story available from your favorite booksellers.

Strands of Blackmail


Cover for Strands of Blackmail
When I was driving home, a white dog was standing up on his hind legs, feet propped up on a fence, looking like he was chatting with the neighbors. So I had to use him in a story.

Sometimes returning home brings back good memories, or bad ones.

For Shari Kendell, it’s finding answers to the questions her grandmother’s death left.  Actors always live in their own world, but Shari is surprised and what she didn’t know.  Who was blackmailing her grandmother, and why?

A Morro Bay mystery short story, available from your favorite booksellers.

Easter Eggs in Books


Girl in pink shirt looks behind rock for three Easter Eggs
Treasure hunt!

Hollywood’s pretty well-known for Easter eggs,.  It’s something that’s put into a movie or a TV show that only a diehard fan will catch.  Like these visits from the movie producer in a brief cameo.  They did miss one though–Donald P. Bellisario shows up in the episode with Mariette Hartley.  You can see him walking in the background in the hospital waiting area, near the end.

Some other examples I’ve run across:

  • In Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’s “Escape From Venice,” Admiral Nelson stays at the Hotel Dandelo.  That’s the name of the cat from David Hedison’s film, The Fly.
  • In Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, there’s a scene where Captain Christopher Pike gets paged.  Pike was a nod to Star Trek.

They can take the form of pretty much anything, especially if you’re familiar with the genre or the actors.  But books have them, too.

Clive Cussler did one in his later novels. Dirk and Al run into a crusty old character with the strange name of…Clive Cussler!  I know a lot of people thought it was hokey and silly, but it’s really kind of a fun nod to the fans of the books.

In fact, there was another action-type novel series where the writers were clearly a fan of Cussler’s, so that crusty character showed up in their first couple of books (not the later ones…).

Have you spotted any in your favorite books?

(And yes, I’ve used some in mine.  They really are a lot of fun.)

The 1 Missing Tip for Finding Time to Write


Golden retriever and a pile of puppies
Really, do I need any other reason besides puppies?

It’s the eternal question, isn’t it?  Joanna Penn has this topic up on her blog this week.

I’m in the long-tail of the ending of my book Cursed Planet (a redraft of 49er Planet), so it’s very close to be done.  My deadline for it is March 31, so I’m trying to hit that.  Either way, it’ll be a win.  I’m trying to cut my time on books down.

Meanwhile, there are two anthology calls I want to submit to.  All I can do right now is think about what I might write for them, so I can focus on finishing.  I also passed by one that is closing on March 31 because getting Cursed Planet done is the most important thing.

But there’s a skill that everyone misses when they talk about time management, even among the gurus on the topic.

Learning Skill Gaps

I just spent the last few months filling in some long-standing gaps.  Craft books certainly didn’t teach them (if you aren’t aware of it, most craft books exist simply to get a new writer through a first book.  Most classes are the same way).

Skill gaps can hold us back.  I think that sometimes we have to be really ready in our progression to take on a skill gap, as well as ready mentally.

The first was how to get ideas.  That had been a sticking point to even writing a new book.  I took a class on it, and…wow!

Then there was the part of my progression I wasn’t ready for.  I had to be dragged into it kicking and screaming…setting and the five senses.  I knew I needed to do it and it took at lot of learning, and a lot of time.  Three years, actually.  It was also a spaceship sized gap that did need to be fixed before I could progress to what I really needed, because everything connected together.

It was frustrating because the writing took longer than I wanted.  This skill wasn’t as intuitive for me, or rather I had to make sure I would do it because if I didn’t, I would skip over it.   I got to the point where the creative side flags me pretty fast if I forget rather than me blowing through a couple of chapters before I realize I left the setting out.

So it shortened the writing time a little as I filled in the gap.

Over the last few months I took Research for Fiction Writers; Novel Structure; Teams in Fiction; and Secondary Plots.  All of those were a progression of filling in a big skill gap for me: novel structure.

As I hit the end of my story,  I can see how all of this learning has played out.  Sure, I’ve gotten stuck on the story, but it’s not the debilitating one where I have to stop and regroup.  It’s more like a quick stop for a few hours, and then it’s “Ah, so that’s the problem.”  Very different experience.

It’s weird because I’ve read a lot of time management books, and they don’t talk about skill gaps as a time management tool.  Yet, if you have a report you’re building every week in Excel, learning more about Excel will help with ways to shorten the process and manage the time better.

Target a skill gap today and make your creative side happy!

I’m attending the Writing Superstars next February.  If you would like to attend, you can use this code LADAMS.  This is a marketing focused writing seminar with big name writers that you’ve probably read.  By April 30 though–after that, the cost goes up.

 

 

Why The Orville is my SF Fix


When I was growing up, I hit the TV Guide every week to find out what science fiction shows were airing this week.  Then, it was digest-sized and had very short summaries of the shows.  I had to look up one word “ensues” because the description for the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea episode “Nightmare” used it.  I still don’t have a clue why that particular word was used for that particular episode.

And when the big season premiere issue came up, it was a big event, because I was checking out what new SF shows were premiering.  Most of them didn’t last long.  But there were shows like:

  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.  Gil Gerard was in that one as title character
  • Battlestar Galactica.  The original with Lorne Green.
  • The  Bionic Woman.  Spy/tennis star Jamie Sommers becomes essentially a superhero through technology.

There’s been other SF shows throughout the years, like Star Trek The Next Generation and Xena, Warrior Princess, but it’s been a while that I’ve found one I wanted to stick with. Most of them have been getting darker and darker.  Especially since I was able to shake lose some of that dark I got from Desert Storm, I can’t even watch Xena any more.  It’s too dark for me now.

Then The Orville with Seth McFarlane showed up last year.  I saw the commercials and was cautious, because the humor was kind of, well, dumb.  But from all my time enjoying Hollywood TV shows, I know one thing is always true:

Pilots tend to be horrible.

The writers haven’t settled into the show yet or figured out what they want to do.  They’ve written this single episode for the purpose of selling a series to the men with the money.

The actors also haven’t really gotten into the characters yet.  If you’ve ever attended a theater performance, it’s best to see it near the end.  The actors will have refined their roles.

And then I tuned in.  Humor was still awkward.  But the show had something I hadn’t seen for a while.

It was bright.

It was hopeful.

Whoa.

I didn’t realize I’d been missing something hopeful until I had it. We’ve had way too much dark, way too many anti-hero characters, and way too many unhappy endings.

The show has its critics.  A lot of people seem to want it to be a comedy or a drama, so when it blends the two, they don’t know what it is.

But, even with only 13 episodes, it had some very thought provoking episodes, especially towards the end of the season.  Yet, they also stayed on lighter end with the humor, so thoughtful didn’t become dark.

And they treated the women characters as characters, not eye candy.  The women are dressed in the same uniforms as the men, fitted both both genders.  The women also have had some important roles, and even some story lines.  I particularly like the doctor, and at least she had normal kids–not the super-intelligent ones SF shows tend to have (Star Trek The Next Generation, SeaQuest DSV).

But I’m in withdrawal!  The show is not going to premiere until 2019.  It’s for a good reason–more time for the scripts, and also because of the special effects requirements.  Robert Picardo is coming back again (yay!), and they will be adding two new cast members.  Check out the news about the show over on TV Guide.

If you saw The Orville, what did you think of it?

Uniforms for space travel


Woman soldier playing a guitar for a cat
Kitty likes being serenaded!

One of the things that’s always struck me about science fiction films is how unrealistic the uniforms sometimes are.  Star Trek’s was pretty cool for its time–color was a new thing on TV so everything had to be shiny and colorful.  They were iconic, if not always practical.

Then there was Buck Rogers in the 25th Century with Gil Gerard.  I watched it not too long ago, and it surprisingly still holds up.  Or at least the first season does.  The characters wore white, one piece bodysuits.  How do you even go to the bathroom?

Now there’s interest in the real thing–the military’s space force uniforms.

Soldiers have a love-hate relationship with their uniforms.  They have to wear them at least 5 days a week, more if deployed.  Then the senior leader of the service wants to make his mark, and uniforms are easy changes.

Of course, that was how the Air Force ended up with uniforms that made them look like airline pilots–hugely unpopular.  It was also how the Army ended up with the beret.  I got the tail end of that one.  The hats were expensive and had to be dry cleaned.  For a uniform where you might be working out in the rain all day?  Really?

I think the military ought to have one like the battle dress uniform we wore.  It’s practical across the board.  We had buttons for everything, so no expensive zipper repairs.  Big cargo pockets for holding gloves, or paperback novels (sneaky person that I was).

And …

Technology to make the camouflage changes colors and patterns.  It’s really the next step on a uniform to have some kind of tech like that.  Be pretty cool, too.  Wander around the post and stand next to things and watch the uniform change patterns.

Could that be done by embedding chips in the cloth itself?  Maybe threads that are very tiny chips?  But then what would happen to it if it was washed?  And, of course, the military wants everything pressed to a sharp crease.

Can you imagine a squad going to a planet and Private John Smith’s camo on one part of his uniform is stuttering and misfiring because he ironed it.  Oh dear.

What do you think the Space Force uniform should look like?

Between Black and White


A woman walking in the distance, forest surrounding her.
Coming home from war for the soldier is a strange experience.  The world no longer matches up.

Returning home from Desert Storm, Mary doesn’t recognize the place she grew up.  Or her father. But it’s her that’s changed, too much. Can she find herself in the past, or is who she was gone forever?

A military flash fiction story available from your favorite booksellers.

Devil Winds


Cover for Devil Lands showing a desert planet
This was inspired by a candle at a September 11 event.  I thought about how spies might communicate and got this story.

Abandoned by war, abandoned by death. Neyan is a soldier hanging on with only the goal of completing her mission: kill the enemy.

Now the enemy are mounting an attack on the kingdom, and she is the only one who stands between them and her people. Then she meets the enemy and she isn’t so sure of her mission any more.

A dark fantasy short story available from your favorite booksellers.