Sunday, August 30, 2009

Vonnegut Rules

The subject of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. came up in an earlier post about Hunch, which caused me to reminisce and do some major musing about the master's work. One of the most valuable educational tools I learned from Vonnegut was his Eight Rules of Writing. These gems of knowledge are credited to his book, BAGOMBO SNUFF BOX: UNCOLLECTED SHORT FICTION (though this advice may have been tailored to short stories, I think it applies to novels equally well).

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

In considering Vonnegut's Eight Rules, I think #8 is the one I violate most often. When you're a writer, you're in a state of constant re-evaluation. I've re-evaluated and I'm making an effort to share more information with the reader sooner--to let them in on the secrets--so they can develop a deeper stake in the characters' conflicts and torment. Sometimes revealing information is best not left to the end of the story. This shouldn't be confused with a plot twist, which is an element that neither the reader nor characters see coming.

Do you have a favorite Vonnegut rule?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Is SFR on the Verge of an Event Horizon?

It seems the publishing industry is (finally) starting to see the merit in that quirky niche subgenre that we call Science Fiction Romance. The number of agents who represent, and the number of publishers who accept SFR seems to be growing...and growing much more enthusiastic. Lately, I've been getting word of SFR-specific submission calls. And at least one major industry publication--Romantic Times--has scheduled a feature on SFR in October.

Encouraging news.

Is the SFR Event Horizon almost upon us?

As a SFR writer, of course I'm enthused. But it's more than just that. I'm excited to read all the great stories that will be published as a result of this trend.

An ever more sophisticated romance-reading public--one that has known Han and Leia, Captain Mal and Inara, and a reboot of Spock and Uhura and who has grown up with the Space Shuttle Program and the International Space Station--is opening up to the universe of possibilities that SFR offers.

The sky is, indeed, not the limit!

I'm Back!

Crunch time is over for another year (can you hear that distant "Yeaaaaaaaaaaaa!" all the way to where you are?) and I'll be back to regular posts starting...uh..right now! Hello. :)

I've got lots of exciting news.

First and foremost--though it's old news by now--I'm very pleased and honored to report my novel, P2PC, has finalled in two contests.

They are:

SouthWest Writers Writing Contest
(SF/Fantasy/Horror category)


Utah RWA Heart of the West Contest
(Paranormal category)

I got the news on my two finals within 24 hours of each other and it was a huge thrill. Thanks to Heather at the Galaxy Express and my co-bloggers on Take it to the Stars for announcing the happy news in my absence. :)

There's also a FIRST SALE pending on a Paranormal novel written by one of my close peers! I'll fill you in when she gives me the green light. *jumps up and down and gives a big thumbs up*

I'm also getting close to finishing a debut SFR novel written by a fellow Skiffy Rommer I met at RWA! I can't wait to wrap it up so I can write my review.

Later this week I'll have an article up by an SFR writer I met at RWA, and some news connected to that, too.

That's all for now, except to say...It's good to be back!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Ah Yes, it's that Time Again...

Well, it's August that means it's "hiatus from my blog" time.

Bear with me while I place nose to grindstone for some heavy duty crunch time at work. I should be back to blogging around September 1.

See you soon.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sound Off: Is Science Fiction (& SFR) Dead?

Recently, io9 posed an interesting question. Is Science Fiction defunct because many believe we're approaching Singularity?

Read the article here.

I don't agree with this theory. Science Fiction (and SFR) is about imagination and possibility. It's about a great story, unique ideas, powerful world-building and compelling characters. Why would people stop reading SF/SFR just because the future may not look exactly like the author paints in their imaginary futuristic world? Are 1984 and 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY any less classic works because the date has come and gone and the world didn't look anything like the predictions? Did people stop reading these books at the point history caught up to the story? Of course not. The elements of vision and imagination still apply, even if history took a drastically different course than the fiction version.

I've been on a "put the science back in science fiction romance" campaign for quite some time now. Maybe I need to start a "save the fiction in science fiction romance" campaign too. :)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Defying Gravity Links

Yes, I'm on a mission.

My blog campaign continues to try to get the word out on this new SFR television series about a mysterious mission in space and its crew (of great characters with many a romantic twist).

Don't know anything about the show? Want to learn more?

Check out these links to interviews and critiques of the new SFR TV show and tune in tonight on ABC to see what all the excitement is about. TV Review of Defying Gravity
Rated the effects and production 6 out of 6, acting and story 4 out of 6, but didn't have a lot of love for the originality or emotional response (which I think many would disagree with, because this series is all about emotion and characters) which both scored a 3 out of 6. Still the overall rating of 32/40 is not too shabby compared to other television offerings.

SciFiandTVTalk's Blog: Defying Gravity's Andrew Airlie--In Control
Interview with the actor playing the mission flight director, who is painted as a bit of a bad guy in the opener. Interview with Defying Gravity star Ron Livingston (who plays Maddux Donner)

Defying Gravity on Hulu

Have I piqued your interest yet?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

A Call to the SFR Troops

I want to go on a little pro-Defying Gravity campaign. Defying Gravity is a Science Fiction Romance series that had a two hour debut on ABC last Sunday night, to a dismal 3.5 million viewers and a few pan reviews. I was especially dismayed by a scoffing review from a Tor columnists. If SF and SFR writers and readers don't support their own genre-related fair, who else is going to?

Personally, I liked the show, and I liked it much better after watching it a second time. Yes, the show had some questionable SF elements. But what SF story--movie, TV, book or otherwise--hasn't?

This show, like SFR, is as much about the characters and their relationships as it is the hardware. And it has some very promising characters with intriguing backstories (including the MC who had to leave two crew members behind on Mars in an earlier mission), a space opera setting and a big mystery, plus as icing on the cake, the grandness of space itself as a backdrop. But let's face it, like Firefly, and most of the good SF before it, Defying Gravity is in jeopardy of being canceled before it even has a chance to develop a fan base. It needs to attract a lot more viewers (and better reviews).

OK, fellow SFR Brigade...this would be a good time to support your cause.

If you missed the debut, here's a summary from Airlock Alpha to get you up to speed.

Defying Gravity is on Sunday nights on ABC. Watch it, and if you like it, talk about it on your blogs, websites and talk to your friends who may also be interested. Let's not let Defying Gravity fall to the same fate as Firefly--bad network decisions and the predetermined failure of innovative SF shows.

Besides, if fans don't support more ground-breaking original series, they're going to get exactly what they deserve--more mindless reality shows.

Are you with me now? :)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

For my Fellow Firefly Fans

There's an article on GeekDad about an excellent workshop I took at RWA from Jacqui Jacoby--Lesson of Firefly: Learning from the Works of Joss Whedon.

Well worth the read and if you ever get a chance to take Jacqui's workshop, by all means check it out.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Playing with HUNCH

I stumbled on this search website called Hunch and decided to task it with finding some recommended SF and SFR books.

On my first attempt, I typed "Science Fiction novel" into the "Today I'm making a decision about..." search box. I then answered or chose to skip a series of questions and Hunch gave me the top picks based on my suggestions, all of which I've read and loved.

#1 DUNE by Frank Herbert

I read this classic ages ago and was struck with the rich world-building and fascinating characters. I went on to read most of the series. Still a favorite icon of mine.

#2 SLAUGHTER-HOUSE FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Anything Kurt Vonnegut was a favorite read, but this one really piqued my imagination about Billy Pilgrim, a man who became "unstuck in time" after being driven insane by events in WWII. It involves alien abduction and a really twisted view of life as only Vonnegut could deliver it.

#3 SIRENS OF TITAN by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

I recently listed this one as one of my favorite SF novels of all time on a writer's site. It was the only Vonnegut mention amidst all the classic SF authors, yet probably one of the most deserving along with #2 above. Few people think of Vonnegut as a SF author, yet he was a Hugo Award winner.

For the Wild Card it came up with THE CITY AND THE STARS, a rewrite of Against the Fall of Night by Arthur C. Clarke. If I remember correctly (I'll have to go Google this), this novel was about a planet where the residents destroyed their civilization every time there was a total eclipse, which happened once every 5,000 years. There were some startling parallels to Earth and our own course through history that made me think, "What if..." It was my first foray into the alternate history realm and probably the origin basis for the premise of my WIP, Draxis.

Hunch also offered the full list of 33 novels which included more Vonnegut, Brabury (FAHRENHEIT 451), Asimov (FOUNDATION), Heinlein (THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS), Crichton (SPHERE), a Star Wars novel and several on my TBR list including THE LAST COLONY by John Scalzi and ENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card.

I ran another search for Science Fiction Romance authors, and answered or skipped another series of questions. This time Hunch returned...

#1 Connis Willis

#2 Kage Baker

#3 Alan Dean Foster

I haven't read any Willis or Baker, but I have read several Alan Dean Foster novels, all some time ago. Interesting.

Next I did a search on Science Fiction Romance novels. Although the survey asked questions like what sort of SF did I prefer (apocalyptic, other worlds, future Earth, etc.) and the level of the romance (G, PG, R), the results were a total disappointment.

#1 WIZARD'S FIRST RULE by Terry Goodkind (a Fantasy)

#2 STARDUST by Neil Gamon (which sounds SF, but is...Fantasy!)

#3 GUILTY PLEASURES by Laurel K. Hamilton (which is not only has vampires and shape shifter. Ugh!)

Yet another site that, even with detailed survey questions, can't distinguish between fantasy and science fiction, not to mention SFR. Now I'm aggravated.

But just out of sheer stubborness, I try again with slightly different responses. And this time...

#1 THE CITY AND THE STARS by Arthur C. Clarke

#2 SLAUGHTER-HOUSE FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

#3 ANATHEM by Neal Stephenson

Although all sound like interesting stories, I wouldn't classify any of them as Science Fiction Romance. Like so many other areas in our industry, once again Science Fiction Romance "does not compute."

Even so, Hunch is a lot of fun to query on a variety of topics. Just for fun, I queried on the best pet for me. The results were worth a good chuckle.

#1 Cat
#2 Cat
#3 Pet Rock
#4 Peafowl

You'd have to understand my extreme preference for dogs over cats to see why I was so amused with "cat" being the top two picks for me. (Oddly enough, my spouse has two cats, but they live in his alternate household.) But pet rock? Is that a comment on my pet quotient? And peafowl? Even my dogs would be amused, I think.

Give Hunch a try and see what kind of results you get. There may be some surprises.

Monday, August 3, 2009

SFR Novel Giveaway!

Don't miss Jess Granger's "Release Week Madness," celebrating the debut of her SFR novel BEYOND THE RAIN on August 4th. (Yes, I know I"ve been uber vocal about this one, but that's because I'm very excited.)

You can win a free copy of BEYOND THE RAIN just by posting a comment on her blog (how easy is that?), and she'll have some fun topics. Click here to beam yourself over to Jess's blog.