A recommendation

Arwin Spicer, a member of my critique group, has her new novel, “Perdita” available for free 2/11/2013 and 2/12/2013.  It is science fiction and an excellent read.  You should give it a try.

One of my readers said recently that I should surround myself with better writers and recommended that I contact (as in send samples to) established writers.  Ah, I wish that I could.  I have enough trouble surrounding myself with a stable (as in long-lived)  group of writers of any kind.  If you were an established writer, would you want to receive unsolicited chapters from an unknown author?  The advice seemed especially far fetched.  Anyway, my actual, real, writers group is on the verge of breaking up.  Writing is a lot of work, especially for someone trying to make a living.  I admire anyone who can work at a regular job and still find time to write.

Life is hard

I’m typing this on a new computer. My old computer died over a week ago. After a week of bad service from a local computer store, I got my money back and bought from a big box store. A day of installing software and I am finally able to work again.

A recommendation

I would be the first to admit that I write “adventure” science fiction. I try to make it fun and entertaining. If you prefer your science fiction to be more cerebral, which I sometimes do as a reader, I recommend “The Hour before Morning” by Arwen Spicer (http://www.amazon.com/The-Hour-before-Morning-ebook/dp/B0080Q9LFQ). She joined my writer’s group this week so, of course, I had to look her up and read some of her work. The theme is unconventional, dark, and thought provoking.

Two things on my mind today.

The first is a reader review (and thank you for the review) that called “A Larger Universe” a “novella.” Just for the record, Wikipedia defines a novella (according to the SFWA) as between 17,500 and 40,000 words. “A Larger Universe” is 123,000 words (and 245 pages when printed.) Actually, I take the comment as something of a compliment – it must have seemed like a quick read, which means the prose flowed smoothly. Science Fiction novels used to be about that length. Now they are often much longer. Word processors are much less effort than typewriters.

Which brings me to the second thing: I recently discovered a tool called Scrivener that was expressly created for writers. I learned to type in high school, but I was never comfortable with the typed page. I typed slowly and with a lot of mental effort as I tried to not make any mistakes. The process became more important than creativity. My first real word processing program was liberating. Mistakes didn’t matter because they could be easily corrected. Scrivener is another multiplier. To make an analogy, I learned computer programming when the process was mostly “start at the beginning and proceed to the end.” Yes, there were subroutines, but they were written with the main program. Then I discovered object-oriented programming in which the program is a collection of interacting objects. Each object, which can be very small, but is self-contained, is written separately and then assembled with all the others into the complete program. Making changes and moving “stuff” around is relatively easy compared to the old way I did things. Scrivener is like that. Each scene stands on its own and can be modified and moved as required with a drag-and-drop. At any time, Scrivener can “compile” part of or the entire novel (short story, screen play, school paper, scientific article, whatever) to Word© (other outputs also available) to see how it reads at that moment. It has a lot of other features and is wonderfully cheap. It was originally written for the Mac, but I use it on a PC. If you’re trying to write, take a look.

If you like fantasy, I recommend the $.99 short story “The Wasp” by Elizabyth Burtis.  You only get twelve pages for your ninety-nine cents, but it is a very entertaining read, well written, and an eerie new twist on the vampire trope.
You can find it at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008PF5R46

Thank you.

Teen Rank

Amazon had a system failure last night and a large number of rankings disappeared for the Kindle, including mine and “Hunger Games.” When the rankings reappeared, about noon, this is where I was in the Teen Science Fiction.  The story is about a teenager, but not meant to be only for teenagers.  Thank you all for reading my novel…and a special thanks to everyone who has written a review on Amazon.

Portland Critique Group

I’ve found a writer’s critique group in Portland! The other two members are Milo and Leah and our first meeting is Monday, July 2. Actually, I found another group that I am also trying to join, but I haven’t heard back from them.

We don’t know much about each other yet, but I have high hopes. If nothing else, this will give me some short term deadlines rather than one big goal.

A response to Amazon reviewer Tghu Verd

Perhaps I shouldn’t spend the time, but Tghu Verd (?) says some things in his review I feel compelled to answer.

First the issue with the prologue:

but I felt a bit cheated because by the time you reach the scene the Prologue describes you have already figured out that it’s coming…and with lots of pages left you know the tension being established will be resolved positively. So no cliff hanger then.

He may be right about this, though I do wish he had put in a spoiler alert for this and what follows. The novel starts slowly, as many have commented, and I wanted to let the reader know that there would be some excitement. However, at this point (spoiler alert) Tommy knows little or nothing about the Kadiil. He may win, he may lose. The climax is in the future. As Mr. Verd says, lots of pages left.

What was worse were the Lords. I am still not sure if these alien slavers were just straw men (or straw aliens if you like) for Tommy’s foil, or meant to be fleshed out characters. I suspect the latter, but once again we have an alien race that are just Humans in Disguise. Perhaps that’s the Universal Truth – that aliens will be just like us – but the Lords are just so passive it’s hard to imagine them having the collective gumption to be where they were. Of course, that passivity allows Tommy to do his business, and that leads me back to my straw man theory. 

First the “humans in disguise” comment. My first defense is, even if this is true, most, perhaps all, science fiction authors who have alien characters could face the same accusation. Actually, many authors postulate something even more preposterous (in my opinion) – no aliens at all. An empty universe for the taking. It does make the writing easier. However, I would like to answer this directly with the thought process I went through (especially since the Nesu continue to figure prominently in the sequel.)

  1. Earth type planet. Earth type evolution. Given that an intelligent creature appears in the first place (remember it took millions of years for humans to appear on earth) that creature will hunt, fish, and gather in order to survive. A significant argument among anthropologists is that much of our intelligence comes from increasingly complex social competition and interaction. In other words, we lifted ourselves up by our own bootstraps: we became more intelligent because it required more intelligence, as time passed, to survive in human society. The same would arguably to true of an intelligent species on an Earth type planet.
  2. We have specific examples of parallel evolution here on Earth, we don’t have to go to another planet. The “Tasmanian wolf” of Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea looks like a wolf, hunts like a wolf, and inhabited the same niche in its habitat as the wolf, but it was a marsupial, like a kangaroo. It is certainly not far-fetched that the same could happen on an Earth type planet.
  3. Even with that, they are not human. They are amphibian. They do have two sexes, as we do, but the females are not only dominant, the males are physically smaller, and it has yet to be established if the males are even intelligent (I am still thinking about that.) I wanted them to be different, but how different could they be: they have babies which they raise from birth, so family is important. Their technology is not much different from ours because physics, mathematics, and engineering would probably follow similar paths: the speed of light is what it is, the strength of steel and concrete is what it is, and the concepts of algebra and calculus seem universal, at least in our universe. And I did want Tommy and the Nesu to have problems in common.
  4. Anyway, I challenge Mr. Verd to come up with aliens as significantly alien as he would like them to be. Jerry Pournelle’s aliens in “Starswarm” are truly alien, in that they appear to be some form of naturally evolved computer. But I already had a lot of computer stuff in the story, so that wouldn’t have worked. Anyway, I did what I did, and I hope most of you liked it.

Second the “passivity” comment. Yes, they are somewhat passive, but (Spoiler alert) I feel like I wrote a lot of words explaining why that was the case. Two thousand years ago, your planet was destroyed. The only time your people tried to settle on another planet, it was destroyed. One at a time, the ships your people built are disappearing. Your people are preying on each other to survive. You’ve been cooped up in a spaceship for thousands of years with no hope of escape because of a relentless enemy that actually doesn’t seem to care if your people live or die, just as long as they don’t do anything outside of certain set boundaries. You have the stars, but at the same time you are in a gigantic cage with no hope of escape. (Again, spoiler alert) After banging your head against that for thousands of years, wouldn’t you be passive, or maybe even suicidal?

I was more concerned with Tommy’s amazing moral restraint around female slaves. Especially ones he fancies. We’re talking a teenage boy with apparently normal hormones here, but luckily his mother installed a strong ethical centre for “how to treat women” and Tommy behaves with wisdom beyond his years. The wisdom of a much older Gillaspy perhaps? I applaud the position and appreciated the insight into Tommy’s thinking/feeling on the matter but having been a teenage boy a while back I do wonder.

The key here is that you grew up in the presence of other sexual teenaged boys and girls. Tommy reached maturity in the presence of human girls that he didn’t find sexually attractive and among humans in general that found him repulsive. I could have written some words about unfocused sexual angst, but it seemed clear enough. All that changed, of course, when the situation changed. But, by that time he didn’t know how to act. He had no role models in how to act.

I do appreciate that Mr. Verd took the time to think about my novel and write a review, but it didn’t change my mind about what I chose to do.