Sunday, December 20, 2020

It's a Very Merry Christmas Release! #scifi #mystery

 While my fellow crew members are taking much deserved seasonal shore leave, I have one last Christmas treat for you. Today sees the release of my scifi mystery Solstice on Vintro - the story that took me a stonking seven years to finish. And it's not even that long a story! But it's finally done and releases today in time for the winter solstice around which it's set.

A Science Fiction Mystery novella.

   

Vintro. The planet that had stolen all her dreams.

 

Melandria Solei has always dreamed of commanding a starship and exploring the universe. When her own dark-eyed older lover steals the position she's worked for, she never expects to go chasing after him in a stolen ship to a world colder than revenge...



Just click the cover to be taken to the buy links (y'know, if you feel like it). And while on the subject of new releases long overdue, there's also the next Keir and Quin book up for pre-order too! Due for release on the 20th March (spring equinox in the UK), when it might not be quite so chilly. I'm hoping that this little novella in the series will keep you busy while I work on the full length book three in the hope of releasing that before the end of next year. No promises, though. I don't exactly have a good track record, now do I?

A Science Fiction Adventure novella

and a side story in the Redemption series.

 

How can one moment of anger destroy so much happiness?

It is a question that will haunt him. When an old enemy comes to Kasha-Asor to kidnap their daughter, armed with a weapon that could end everything, Keir is forced to leave an injured Quin on Lyagnius. But his quest for a cure and their missing daughter will come at a terrible cost. 


Book #2.5 of the Redemption series.
Trigger warning: the loss of a child.

***

I will leave you with a seasonal picture of my Star Wars Christmas tree. Happy holidays!




Friday, December 11, 2020

Secret Babies, Hidden Legacies, and Big Twists You Never See Coming

You all probably remember the surprise scene from Star Wars. The one where Luke Skywalker confronts his arch enemy, Darth Vader, who says, "Obi Wan never told you what happened to your father."

And Luke, bruised, bloodied and missing both a hand and a lightsaber he lost in the fight with Vader declares, "He told me enough. He told me you killed him."

And then Darth drops his bombshell. "No. I am your father."

To which Luke shouts, "No. No. That's not true! That's impossible!"

Sorry, Luke, you just discovered a popular trope in storytelling. You were a secret baby, just like your twin sister, Leia.

In the more recent Star Wars trilogy, Rey finally discovered the secrets behind who she is and that she, too, was a secret baby. Maybe Luke should have warned her she had one heck of a plot twist coming. (And you all probably thought Luke was her dad, like I did, right?) 

And though it's not sci-fi, Game of Thrones threw a similar curve ball at its fans. 

Jon Snow, the bastard son of Lord Ned Stark of Winterfell, a child unwanted by his stepmother, Lady Stark, is banished even from sharing meals at the family's table. 

Though his siblings consider him a brother, as a teenager he's shuffled off to the Night's Watch where he vows his life to the service of defending the Wall against the dangers that lurk to the north. He's mistreated by his taskmasters, but in spite of it all, he eventually rises to lead the Night's Watch. And later to be horribly betrayed by them. 

Yet, in spite of it all, his destiny is to unite the people of the North, survive all the bloody wars and betrayals that leave most of his family dead, and through a series of unlikely events, ends up being declared the King of the North at Winterfell, his childhood home. He accomplishes all this largely due to the strengths and convictions he developed on his long and troubled journey.

But he had a big surprise twist coming, too. As the battle of all battles with the forces of darkness draws near, he learns Ned Stark wasn't his real father. The Lord of Winterfell was his uncle. He was really the son of Ned's sister and the late prince of the seven kingdoms. The man he'd known as his father all his life had lied to him--to everyone--about his true identity to protect him. Jon Snow wasn't a bastard. He'd never been a bastard. He was the heir to the Iron Throne. 

Jon Snow was a secret baby, too.

But not all secret baby stories involve finding out you're the offspring of a king or an arch enemy. Sometimes the legacy isn't known. And may never be fully known.

My story in Pets in Space 5, Juggernaut, has a similar twist, in that the hero, Sno Telon, never knew his father. (I didn't borrow the "Sno" from Jon--there's a bit of a tragic reason Sno was given his name.) He also has no idea who his father is...or was. He knows only his father's subspecies and the general circumstances behind his conception, but the rest of that history is a mystery. 

Sno Telon was a secret baby, too. 

I wrote Juggernaut in 2020, and Sno's backstory was one that seemed to manifest from something I'd been struggling with for well over a year. You see, the week before Father's Day 2019, I discovered that I was a secret baby, too.

It all started with a DNA test, one I mentioned here in a blog shortly after I got my results back and while I was still trying to work out why a bunch of people I'd never heard of -- all from the same family -- were showing up as close DNA matches. It took time and a bit of help from another who understood DNA findings a whole lot better than I did at that point to explain what it all meant. I'd just discovered my DNA had revealed a "NPE event." That's DNA community slang for Not Parent Expected.

My dad -- the man I'd always known as my dad and who was recorded on my birth certificate -- was not my real father. Not genetically. And I was a secret that my mother had kept all her life.

That was the big twist in my life I certainly never saw coming.

Even as a writer, it's difficult to explain how much of an impact this had on me emotionally. How many tears I shed. How I felt like a rug had just been jerked out from under my life to leave me lying in a heap on the floor. Everything had changed....yet really, nothing had. I was still the same person I'd always been. Nothing about my childhood had changed and my family was still my family. Relatives may change due to a DNA test, but not the family you've always known. 

I don't know the circumstances of how I came to be. I don't know if my genetic father ever knew I existed. I had--and still have--so many questions that will probably never be answered. There were people who knew the answers to my questions once, but they're all gone now.

I do know the name of my "DNA dad" (as I've come to call him), and I've learned many things about his life through research--that he was a war vet, combat medic, businessman, pilot, commodore of a yacht club, and very involved in a group with remote-operated model aircraft later in life--I assume probably after he could no longer pilot. His enlistment papers state he was 6' 2" and blonde-haired at the time he entered the military. That probably explains why I grew up to be the tallest one in my family and why I was born a towhead. 

From what I know of him, he was a good man. But I don't--and will never--know him. And how much of who I am may have come from him. 

In well-plotted fiction, the reader eventually discovers the secrets of a character's backstory as the writer reveals them. Not always so in real life.

My journey continues...

Have a great week, and this being my last blog of 2020, have a great holiday!


 

Friday, December 4, 2020

BUILDING CHARACTER: Bringing People (And Aliens) to Life Through Words - Part 2

In Part 1 of my Building Character blog posts, we discussed how a character’s unique traits will determine how they react to anything and everything in the story. I gave a list of 14 things that make a character unique. You can read that post here. In Part 2, I want to dive deeper into three of them: experiences, perspective, and beliefs.

 

EXPERIENCES (Backstory) 

Many factors, including physical attributes, cause people to experience life differently. You can start imagining what impacts sex, color, and body measurements (height, weight, musculature, body fat, etc.) may have on a person, real or imaginary. These experiences aren’t just based on the strengths or limitations of their body, but by the way others who see them treat them. Were they treated differently because of their sex or their skin color? Were they unable to play a sport they loved because they didn’t have the correct body type? Do they have a physical deformity, disability, or illness that affected their life? The attributes that make a character unique on the outside could very well affect how they experience life on the inside.

Physical attributes can affect a person’s daily experiences as well as those bigger life-defining moments. If the life-defining moment is negative, emotional trauma can result. Emotional trauma is an emotionally painful event in the character's life. For example, getting rejected by the boy you like for being overweight can cause emotional trauma. 

Emotional trauma—which can come from anywhere, not just physical attributes—is key to character creation. Your characters’ fears, wounds, and emotional needs all stem from their emotional traumas. Screenwriter Michael Hague discusses this in depth in his books, his workshops, and on his website. I urge you to check them out. Here is the short version:

Wound: An emotional trauma. An emotionally painful event in the character’s life.

Fear: Painful emotions the character wants to avoid. Fear stems from the wound and creates an emotional need.

Emotional Need: This is the character’s true goal; the internal goal. The character’s emotional need drives his behavior. A character may not even realize he has an emotional need in the beginning of the story, usually because he lies to himself about his fears and needs.

Lie: In order to cope with his wound, the character believes lies about himself. I call this the negative coping skill.

I’ve included 2 sample character charts showing wounds, fears, lies, and emotional needs from my SciFi Romance Renegade (The Survival Race #3) at the end of the blog.

Your character’s experiences shape his point of view and perspective. 

 

POV (POINT OF VIEW) or PERSPECTIVE 

If you remember from Part 1, POV or perspective is the way your character views life. Perspective plays a HUGE part in what makes a person unique. It shapes their views of the the world and of themselves. Their POV stems from their background. Their history. Their wounds and fears. What is their true motivation? What do they really want? What do they really need?

POV/ perspective shapes the lies our characters believes about themselves. This is where their poor coping mechanisms come from.

Going back to Michael Hague’s teachings, your character’s fear creates his identity.

Identity: Emotional armor (facade) worn to protect your character from his wound. It’s the lie he believes about himself. It’s the negative coping skill. This is where you give your character flaws.

Essence: Who the character is when the emotional armor is stripped. The true self. Who they are when they overcome their flaws. Who they are with better coping skills. Who they are when they are balanced.

Michael Hague says a character arcs when he moves from his identity (the flawed coping skill in the beginning of the story) to essence (true self) by obtaining the emotional need (internal goal).

The end reward (the true internal goal) must satisfy the emotional need that the fear prevents.

 

BELIEFS 

Your experiences and perceptions in life create your beliefs. What you believe is what you perceive to be true based on your experiences. You character may have religious, cultural, and political beliefs. Beliefs about what’s right/ wrong. Beliefs about the world, other people, and themselves.

Beliefs can change over time due to new/ changing experiences and perceptions. It’s our job to make our characters change their flawed beliefs as they arc into a better version of themselves. Remember: a character arcs when he moves from identity (the flawed self) to essence (the true self) by obtaining the emotional need (internal goal).

We talked earlier about the lie the character believes about himself. This lie should center on one of the 5 basic human needs.

1) The need to secure one’s biological and physiological needs.
    Air, Water, Food, Clothing, Shelter

Related lie: I’m not worthy of providing for myself or anyone else.

2) The need to keep oneself and one’s family safe.
    Protection of life, liberty, or property, and emotions (bullying). Financial security. Protection of health.

Related lie: I don’t deserve to feel safe.

3) The need to feel connected to and be loved by others.
    Friendship, Romance, Intimacy, Family

Related lie: I’m not worthy of love or affection.

4) The need to gain esteem and recognition, both by others and from oneself (self-esteem).
    Independence, Compensation, Respect, Promotion, Credit, Gratitude, Appreciation

Related lie: I can’t do anything right.

5) To realize one’s full potential. Self-actualization
    Higher education, Spiritual enlightenment, Artistic pursuits, Travel and experience, Altruistic and charitable contributions to others.

Related lie: I’ll never be a good enough…(parent, friend, employee, etc.)

I’d wager some of these lies spoke to you. That’s because we all have wounds and fears that we can relate to. When you show this in your story, your characters will be relatable, and they will come to life for your readers.  

 

CHARACTER CHART

This is the character chart I use. You can fill in any part of this character chart first and then work backwards and forward to fill in the rest. You can do this chart at any time in your writing process. You can do it before you start writing your book, which can help you plot the story or fill it in during revisions to be sure you arced your characters properly. Be sure to read Building Character Parts 1 and 2 to understand the chart. The resources I use when completing my charts:
    Archetype Cards - Caroline Myss
    Goal, Motivation, and Conflict - Deb Dixon
    Five Stage Plot Structure - Michael Hague
    Negative Trait Thesaurus - Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi


KATANA [Dominant Impression = Female Gladiator]

Archetype
:  Warrior
Light attribute - Strength, skill, discipline, toughness of will. Heroism, stoicism, self-sacrifice.
Shadow attribute - Trading ethical principles for victory at any cost. Indifference to the suffering inflicted on others.

Wound: Years of abuse (physical, emotional, sexual) left her feeling unworthy.  

Fears:
1) Unworthiness/ Her life is meaningless
2) Disapproval, humiliation
3) Failure
4) Loneliness

Lies: The lies a character tells himself gives rise to his identity or emotional armor, what I like to call the negative coping skill. I put the negative coping skill in parenthesis after each lie.  

1) I am only worthy/ have value if I win. (subservient)
2) If I mask my true feelings, I won’t get hurt. (guarded)
     
Emotional Need (True Goal):        Emotional Motivation:
1) Realize her full potential           b/c living in her identity is unfulfilling.
2) Unconditional love                    b/c tying love to worth is tiresome and demoralizing.
3) Emotional vulnerability             b/c emotionless relationships are unsatisfying.

Emotional conflict
1) Doesn’t know how to reach her full potential without winning.
2) Believes no one will love her unless she has worth.
3) Fears vulnerability will lead to hurt and pain

Physical Goal:            Physical Motivation:                     Physical Conflict:
To capture escapees    to prove worth & get reward        Regan, Griffin, and injury prevent her            

***
 

GRIFFIN [Dominant Impression = Prejudiced Scientist] 

Archetype:  Pioneer
Light attribute - Passion for doing and creating what has not been done before
Dark attribute - compulsive need to keep moving on

Wound: Failed to stop abusive gladiator father. Failed to protect Mother from abusive father.

Fears:
1) Becoming his father
2) Losing those he cares about
3) Failure, inadequacy
4) Isolation

Lies: (poor coping mechanisms)
1) All gladiators are abusive. (prejudiced)
    The world is better off without gladiators. (prejudiced)
2) I’m better than gladiators. (haughty)
3) Happiness is somewhere else. (escapism)
4) I have to keep working in order to leave this planet. (workaholic)

Emotional Need (True Goal):    Emotional Motivation:
1) Forgiveness                           b/c he blames self for mother’s death/ failure to protect her
2) Peace                                     b/c he failed his mother and is haunted by her death.
3) Belonging                              b/c his prejudice had kept him from fitting in.
3) Self-acceptance                     b/c father didn’t love him for who he was.  

Emotional conflict:
Guilt and fear prevent him from attaining forgiveness, peace, belonging, and self-acceptance.

Physical Goal:             Physical Motivation:     Physical Conflict:
Procure a spacecraft    to get to the moon         has to work with & become a the thing he hates most (a gladiator) to win it.

Positive Attributes:
Idealistic, visionary, bold, curious, observant, sensitive, intelligent

***

Who your characters are at the beginning of the story should not be the same as who they are at the end. They should be unable to attain their goals in the beginning of the book because they haven’t changed or arced yet. Only when they learn to reach their full potential, only when they arc, can they achieve their goal.

If you'd like to see how the characters arc in Renegade, you can buy your copy here

The last man alive wins. But what if your competitor is the woman you love?

When a scientist and a genetically engineered female gladiator team-up in the Survival Race, passions ignite…and a game-changing secret is revealed. But the race masters demand a single champion in this bloodsport, and the rivals-turned-lovers must choose between winning their freedom and losing each other forever.

**This Science Fiction Romance is a stand alone book in a series in which each book's hero and heroine find their happily ever after.**

Stay safe out there!

K.M. Fawcett
Author and martial artist
Romance for the Rebel Heart
www.kmfawcett.com



About Spacefreighters Lounge

Hosted by 5 Science Fiction Romance authors with 8 RWA Golden Heart finals and a RITA final between them. We aim to entertain with spirited commentary on the past, present, and future of SFR, hot topics, and our take on Science Fiction and SFR books, television, movies and culture.