Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Cover Reveal for Harbinger by Nicole Conway with GIVEAWAY!

Hello Readers! Welcome to the Cover Reveal for
Harbinger by Nicole Conway
presented by Month9Books!
Celebrate this reveal by entering the giveaway found at the end of the post!

Victory is written in the blood of the brave.As the armies of the Tibran Empire continue to march across Maldobar, a path of scorched destruction and despair is left in their wake. Even with the formidable princess, Jenna Farrow, leading the charge, the strength of the dragonriders is waning. Tibran victory appears inevitable—especially after Princess Jenna and Prince Aubren are taken hostage by the infamous Lord Argonox. Separated from her brother and tortured for information, Princess Jenna refuses to bend to the iron will of Argonox. But her strength and resolve may only last so long. Held prisoner in his dark tower, it would take a miracle to set her free—or perhaps a pair of demigods and their dragons. With revived dragonrider legend, Jaevid Broadfeather, at his side, Reigh must now make a choice: face the truth about the origin of his dark powers, or turn his back on world in need. But throwing off a lifetime of shame and self-doubt is not so easily done—especially when the cost of failure means the destruction of the world. The long-awaited hero has awakened. The ancient spirits are stirring. The dark goddess has chosen her champion. But is he ready to embrace that rite and become the HARBINGER Maldobar needs him to be?
Harbinger (Dragonrider Legacy #2)
by Nicole Conway
Publisher: Month9Books
Publication Date: August 14, 2018

Nicole is the author of the children’s fantasy series, THE DRAGONRIDER CHRONICLES, about a young boy’s journey into manhood as he trains to become a dragonrider. She has completed the first two books in the series, and is now working on the third and final book. Other works include MAD MAGIC (Sept 2017), FAULBENDER (tbd), SCALES (tbd), and THE DISTANCE BETWEEN STARS (May 2017).
Originally from a small town in North Alabama, Nicole moves frequently due to her husband’s career as a pilot for the United States Air Force. She received a B.A. in English with a concentration in Classics from Auburn University, and will soon attend graduate school.
She has previously worked as a freelance and graphic artist for promotional companies, but has now embraced writing as a full-time occupation.
Nicole enjoys hiking, camping, shopping, cooking, and spending time with her family and friends. She also loves watching children’s movies and collecting books. She lives at home with her husband, two cats, and dog.

Monday, June 25, 2018

This is Thriller

Image source
What is thriller?

Aside from being an epic song from the 80’s, accompanied by a stellar music video and dance routine, thriller is a literary, film, and television genre. I know, this is a blog for aspiring authors, but TV shows and movies all begin on paper (or the screens of various devices that facilitate writing, which will surely claim our eyesight in time…). For those aspiring to become screenwriters of either medium, I shall not discriminate.

While often mixed with other genres and having multiple subgenres (which we will explore in future posts), there are key ingredients required to be a thriller: suspense (a genre unto itself, more on that later), surprise, and excitement. It should give you thrills and chills. There ought to be twists and turns and hooks built into each word for the reader to monkey bar-swing forward on. Thrillers don’t have to be fast-paced, but they do need to be driving. They should create energy, anticipation, and the ever-important motivation to turn the page.

Page-turner: something we all want our finished product to be but is expected of a thriller. We don’t want potential readers stopping at the first page and setting it back on the physical/digital shelf. We want their heart pounding—we want them red-eyed late at night, having lost track of time, and without an ounce of regret when they’re half-dead in the morning because our story is that. Damn. Good.

It’s possible. I’ve been on the reading end of books like that. I intend to write books like that. You can too.

OK, S.A., but how?

With literary devices. With brain science. By reading and watching examples of what works, and what doesn’t. I follow a screenwriter who intentionally watches crappy movies and critiques them as examples of what not to do. It’s OK do to that. Read some less than acclaimed works and see what problems jump out at you. Of course, read quality work too.

Image source
See how masters of the craft construct a story, chapter, paragraph, and sentence. What are their word choices? How can one word make the difference between mere information and a gut punch? You don’t have to go digging through a thesaurus, in fact one famous author (Stephen King) advises against it. It’s possible to search within your vocabulary to find words that hold a charge and light up your sentences. Your writing will shine so bright, you’ll be blinding folks quicker than social media on smartphones. We’ll dig into this more, but when you find words that hold weight for you and drop them on the page, it’s both impactful and authentic.

It’s all about authenticity. Your voice is what sets you apart, and is developed by writing, rewriting, and writing some more. Use it to evoke imagery and tone in a way that leaves your readers sucking in the page with their mouth agape. Say exactly what you mean by setting a scene that jumps off the page, and readers will turn, turn, turn just to keep filling out the picture.

Not sure how to do that? Haven’t found your voice yet? That’s alright. We’ll work that out together.

We’ll talk about the at times elusive concept of show versus tell. We’ll learn how to use plot twists, red herrings, and cliffhangers to your advantage and to the excitement of your readers. We’ll discuss killing your darlings and trimming the fluff off your drafts to maximize impact. Stick with me. It’s going to be good.

I’d love to hear from you.

What are you reading? What are you writing? What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you see/hear the word thriller? Hit me with your questions and I’ll give you my best answers.

Be sure to tune in for next month’s post, but till then:

Stay inspired. Be thrilled. Write on.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Animal Music

Ideas: Writing Books for Children
by: Alice Cotton

Listen to Birds!

There is a big fancy, important word called zoomusicology. It means “the study of the music of animals!“ This is something that children naturally enjoy because they love animals and music.
For instance, listen to the birds singing outside in summer and spring or right now! You may wonder:  What are they saying? Do birds really appreciate music, or do they just treat it like a collection of sounds? Hmmm. There’s been a lot of debate about this over the years. We all know (I assume) that creatures ranging from birds to whales are capable of making haunting, melodious sounds — but whatever are they saying?

Neuroscience might also hold an answer

Sarah Earp, a researcher at Emory University in Atlanta, GA, has dual specialties in music and neuroscience and has devised an innovative study that examined not the structure or complexity of the melodious sounds made by other species, but instead what response these noises evoked in the brains of those who heard it.

It's a particularly intriguing idea because of zoomusicology expert Jean-Jacques  Nattiez (born December 30, 1945, in Amiens, France and a professor of musicology) once argued that music has until now been uniquely human. He says, "sound  is not organized and conceptualized (that is, made to form music) merely by its producer, but by the mind that perceives it.” If we can actually analyze the minds of birds that hear their species' songs and compare them to their human counterparts, we might well be able to say whether or not the birds are really creating music. 

So, Sarah Earp looked at the brains of white-tailed sparrows like the one shown here. She examined how both male and female sparrows responded to the males' songs, both while in and out of the breeding state. The response of both males and females to male birdsong resembled how the human amygdala reacts in response to music—although for males the response resembled humans who hear unpleasant music, but the females reacted as our amygdalas would when we hear something beautiful and melodious.

Earp explains her findings: "We found that the same neural reward system is activated in female birds in the breeding state that are listening to male birdsong, and in people listening to music that they like.

"The neural response to birdsong appears to depend on social context, which can be the case with humans as well. "Both birdsong and music elicit responses not only in brain regions associated directly with reward, but also in interconnected regions that are thought to regulate emotion. That suggests that they both may activate mechanisms that are necessary for reproduction and survival.”

Admittedly, there is one issue with the study—a big part of the human response to music occurs in regions of the brain that birds don't really share, meaning it's hard to say definitively whether birds really do respond to their sounds exactly  like humans do, which of course is crucial to determining if they are really making music. Earp suggests a followup study with baleen whales- themselves famous for their otherworldly songs—could do the trick...but first, we have to come up with some way to perform neural images on whales, which are just slightly harder to study than white-tailed sparrows.

There is more...

It is the pied butcherbirds, virtuosos of the bird world. These Australian songbirds structure their songs like improvisational jazz riffs, according to a new study.

Hollis Taylor, a musician who listened to the Pied Butcherbird sing and whose trained ear as a violinist and composer stood in a desert in Western Australia listening to them sing and said, “I heard a startlingly arresting birdsong—no, a  trio!” Taylor says. “I was in the middle of three Pied Butcherbirds, each singing a different part in a rich, clear voice.”

That experience more than a decade ago proved to be life-changing for Taylor, who has been studying and recording the species, a virtuoso among songbirds, ever since. Pied Butcherbird songs sound like minimalist jazz riffs, she says, in “the adding and subtracting of notes in these magnificent,  flute-like songs that slowly unfold and transform.”

Taylor isn’t alone in her adulation. As long as people have recognized melodies, we ’ve been enthralled and inspired by the beauty of birdsong. Whether birdsong qualifies as music with aesthetic value, rather than serving only functionally as communication between birds, is hotly debated. Still, Taylor thought the unique complexity of Pied Butcherbird songs was worth a closer look.

So, at Sydney’s Macquarie University, Hollis teamed up with experts from around the world to investigate whether Pied Butcherbird songs might have more in common with music than anyone realized. Taylor collected recordings of 17 birds in the wild and sent the tracks to pianist, Eathan  Janney, zoomusicologist who was finishing biology graduate work at the City University of New York, for analysis. When he applied a neurological algorithm that visualizes birdsong like brain activity, he found that  Pied Butcherbirds mix repetition and novelty in a very musical way.

Each butcherbird in the study performed a repertoire of musical phrases, and the most skilled crooners sometimes knew more than 30 such pieces. The researchers found that individual birds often included the same themes— what musicians call  “motifs”—within those phrases. The motif forms the backbone of the phrase, while variations in pitch and rhythm make each one unique.

Musicians, particularly jazz and blues artists, also use motifs to keep their listeners engaged by returning repeatedly to a familiar melody, even as they modify it slightly through improvisation. Janney thinks the study, which was published last month in Royal Society Open Science, provides compelling  evidence of the commonalities of music and birdsong. However, he does admit that it would take more extensive research on the Pied Butcherbird and other species’ songs to really prove that point.

“There is an open argument about bird  song: is it like how we experience music or is it something completely different?” Janney says. “This balance [between repetition and novelty] is giving us a clue that these birds may experience their songs like music.”Additionally,  the most skilled birds that knew more songs used motifs more regularly, and even seemed to keep time to a musical rhythm. Taylor speculates that the  repeated motifs might prevent the complex songs from confusing their avian  audience. “The birds  are  keeping interest going by having these different phrase types,” she says. 

The question of whether birdsong can be called music is one that authors continue to ponder, with Taylor publishing a book on the subject next year. She's currently in the Australian Outback recording the  springtime nocturnal songs of Pied Butcherbirds—which for her is part work  and part pleasure. “Since each bird sings differently, and the songs can change annually, each night is always a thrill,” she says. “The musician in me recognizes the musician in them.

“So now,” says Alice, “ask a child what he or she thinks and you will have a beautiful and exciting subject for your next children’s book!
by children’s author, Alice Cotton

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Guest Post by Doug Solter on Why He Writes Young Adult Fiction

Doug's latest release
First, I would like to thank Joy for allowing me to do a guest post on her blog. Today I'd like to share with you why I write young adult fiction. I sometimes ask myself this question, “why do I like writing stories about teenagers?” Shouldn’t I be writing about the adult experience? Isn’t that more of a “serious” subject worthy of serious literature? Well, I’ve found that I'm not interested in the normal teen problems of who to date or who to take to prom, or why was that girl staring at me in biology? What I do love is writing from a teen’s point of view. How they see the world. Their hopes and dreams. Their fears and concerns. I know what adults think about, and quite frankly, it’s not that interesting because I already live that life every day. So I tend to enjoy writing stories about the experiences of extra-ordinary teen characters who lead fascinating lives. Or lives I wish I had when I was a teen.

Another perk of writing young adult fiction is being able to finally understand a group of humans that have eluded me for over thirty-five years. Women. Now, do I fully understand them? No. But-- hear me out—I have learned how to empathize with their worldview and understand their fears and concerns. Reading about those young female heroines of YA novels gave me a new perspective on how women think. For instance, how they see other women, how they see themselves, and how they see men. Also, the anxieties and fears we both share. Similarities that define both sexes as human beings. It's been an eye-opening experience. 

I wish I had this knowledge when I was a young man because it would have helped me understand that girls were not these strange creatures with alien-type brains…but they were more like me than I could ever imagine.

 In terms of the young adult book world, I think my approach to writing young adult novels is different from other authors. I tend to write larger-than-life stories full of escapism, instead of a teen drama set in high school. There 's nothing wrong with those types of books. Far from it. Many of those books help teens navigate through serious subjects and provides them with the power to take control of their problems and concerns. Or sometimes it can show them that they are not alone.

But I think some teens want that escapism from their normal lives. They want to dream. They want to be inspired. They want to stretch themselves beyond what they think is possible. 

If I can help one young reader think beyond their four walls of existence, and embrace the larger world around them, then I consider my job done.

Doug Solter began writing screenplays in 1998, then made the switch to writing young adult fiction in 2008. Doug has worked in television for over twenty years. So far in his life, Doug has enjoyed wine on the streets of Barcelona. Hiked the mountains. Loved a cat. Rang up vanilla lattes at Starbucks. Enjoyed a Primanti's sandwich in Pittsburgh. And one summer he baked pizzas and crazy bread for money when Michael Keaton was Batman. Doug lives in Oklahoma and is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Book Review of The Gems: Tomorrow Always Lies by Doug Solter

What if you met the perfect boy, but discovered he was an android? When Nadia first met him, Robert was an awkward boy with striking green eyes, hardly someone on the FBI's most wanted list. But when Robert reveals his secret, Nadia and the Gems are thrown into a cross-country chase dodging FBI agents, Russian mercenaries, and a Polynesian giant named Kawiki. Who are the Gems? A talented group of teen girl spies who know how to take care of themselves.

Tomorrow Always Lies is the second book in The Gems Young Adult spy thriller series that features strong characters, girl-power bonding, riveting action, and lots of fun. Think Gallagher Girls sprinkled with some Star Trek. 

*I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review*

This book made for a very fun read! An all-girl teen action story with a sentient AI boy robot as the love interest?! Yes, please! 

Tomorrow Always Lies did not disappoint. Right from the beginning I became lost in the story and engaged. The chapters switch between the Gems, four girls who are secret spies. I liked this aspect as I did not read book one so this POV change helped me get to know the girls.

This is a fast-paced story which matches perfectly with the action. Each Gem was a developed character who had her own voice and personality. This aspect helps hold the story together and gives it more dept as each girl battles her own problems. 

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading YA with strong female leads. If you enjoy action or science fiction you can't go wrong with this one! 

Doug Solter began writing screenplays in 1998, then made the switch to writing young adult fiction in 2008. Doug has worked in television for over twenty years. So far in his life, Doug has enjoyed wine on the streets of Barcelona. Hiked the mountains. Loved a cat. Rang up vanilla lattes at Starbucks. Enjoyed a Primanti's sandwich in Pittsburgh. And one summer he baked pizzas and crazy bread for money when Michael Keaton was Batman. Doug lives in Oklahoma and is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Book Review of Charity Amour by Joy V. Sheridan

This novel, set in the time of the French Revolution, concerns the destiny of Charity Cottrell - extraordinarily beautiful and talented. Early in life she was deprived of her secure home base because of an eviction. She had to become a live-in domestic to keep a roof over her head. In desperate self-defence, she attacked one of her employers, the lecherous aristocrat Lord Rispian, and had to go 'on the run'. In the course of her adventures, Charity encountered the attentions of Lord Clover, a passionate admirer, who became a patron. He built her up as an Opera Star, and she received massive ovations. 
Later, she was kidnapped and taken to a French brothel, where she was 'groomed' by the proprietress, Madame d'Esprit, to be a supremely desirable Lady of Pleasure. She developed some Sapphic feelings for the proprietress. She was eventually rescued, and spirited away - in the nick of time before the brothel was destroyed by a Revolutionary mob. She did an 'anvil' marriage with Lord Clover. Shortly after this, the villainous Lord Rispian did a vendetta on Clover, his deadly rival. Charity had felt she was happily married, and was devastated at the news. But having established the validity of her marriage certificate, she came to inherit Clover's estate. After her bitter struggles through life, she emerged with status, strength and power - to rename herself 'Charity Renegade'.

*I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review* 

This story reminded me of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë in how Charity is forced to experience hardship early in life. Also in the character Lord Clover, who seems to be a handsome version of Mr. Rochester. I enjoyed these similarities but more so because of how Charity Amour takes many different turns. 

When Charity's father dies she is forced to leave her home and find work. She is innocent as can be and learns quickly how rough a place the world can be. Charity is a strong woman though and always seems to find a way for herself. 

I enjoyed reading this novel and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. There are adult elements in the novel, as well as romance. This is a story of a woman struggling to find herself while being tossed around by life. 


Monday, June 11, 2018

The Art of Suspense

Licensed Adobe Stock image

The Aspiring Author's Blog fantasy contributor Alexa McGinnis and I recently had a Twitter exchange that changed my plan for this first Mystery Monday post. When you surround yourself with great writers, working hard on their craft, this sort of thing is bound to happen.

The topic of our Twitter conversation was coy writing and how irksome I find it. And it's known to be a problem in many an otherwise brilliant mystery, so, let's talk about it and get it out of the way. 

First thing's first: What do I mean by coy writing?

Imagine, if you will, a striptease... 

(Don't look at me like that. I write noir mysteries set in New Orleans. I used to work for Nine Inch Nails. I've been to my fair share of strip clubs and Burlesques.)

Where was I? Oh, yes. The striptease. Unlike a Burlesque performer, when an author is being coy, they have no intention of showing you anything worth seeing. They are hiding information, using it as power and authority over the reader, until they finally drop their clothes, unzip their skin, and reveal that they're not a beautiful woman at all, they're a muskrat! Fooled you.

This kind of revelation usually has one of several appropriately annoyed responses:
"What the fuck, dude?" (That one might be just me) 
It's information that would have helped you understand a character's motivation better. It's information that would have helped you to understand how dangerous a situation really is or isn't. It's information that would have helped you to figure out the whodunit in a whodunit.

Coy writing not only removes these bits of critical information, it doesn't even hint at it. So, there you are, minding your own business, reading a novel that you think is being honest and building up to something, when WHAM!! You get a three-page information dump that ties everything into a neat little package with a flourish like the author has done you some kind of favor, and you exclaim (and rightly so), "What the actual fuck, dude?"

(And if you're me, you then have to pay your six-year-old resident blackmailer a quarter so he won't tattle on mommy for dropping f-bombs at breakfast.)

Agatha Christie. Amazon Author Page image
This is why Agatha Christie is so revered. That woman did not play coy with the reader, at all. She hid all the information in plain sight. It's all right there for you to figure it out if you're on the look-out for it; but to see it, you can't allow yourself to get so engrossed in the story that you forget you're supposed to be solving a murder. And good luck with that.

Because that's the real trick, you see. The trick to creating real suspense, not architecting a maze so random and complicated and full of blind alleyways that it's impossible for the reader to arrive at the correct solution. That's not suspense. That's cheating.

But it's hard. And this is where that striptease analogy comes into play.

(Y'all thought I forgot about that, didn't you?)

In a striptease, the performer hints at that reveal. They flash a shoulder here, a little too much thigh there. But they flash it nonetheless. And it can be slow or fast because pacing is critical to a good show, but - and this is the important part - everything must be revealed as a part of an honest buildup, otherwise you're wasting the audience's time and being coy.

Let's take the character backstory tease. I'm going to use one of my characters as an example, mainly because he's a raging narcissist who loves it when I talk about him, but also because his backstory is deep; so deep, that I've had spread it out over the course of five books.

Derek Sharp is introduced in Devil Take Me Down, the second book of the Clementine Toledano Mysteries. He's an egotistical rockstar and kind of a prick, but a lovable one. Because he's a suspect in that second book, we don't learn much about him. He's an annoying ancillary character that may or may not be trying to kill our heroine. Then comes his strange appearance in the next book, Chasing Those Devil Bones, where his personal demons attack him while recording an album with that main character, Q Toledano. We don't know what those demons are, but Q has an inkling. You see, Q has demons of her own and she recognizes his scars, no matter how hard he's trying to hide them. Just between you and me, Derek has also grown on Q like a fungus at this point and she kind of likes him, no matter what she says to the contrary.

In The Devil's Luck, we get to know Derek really well as he becomes more of a core character and at this point, three books into his development, I have now provided every single clue for the reader to figure out what happened to Derek to make him who he is. It's so obvious, in fact, that I actually thought my beta readers would yell at me about spoiling it for them. But they didn't. They didn't figure it out. They just liked that Derek was becoming more human, more real, and a bigger part of the overall story. 

Ain't I a stinker?

The Usual Suspects
Movie Poster
Now, if I've done my job when the big reveal comes in Book 7, anyone who's followed Derek from his first appearance in Devil Take Me Down will feel just like that cop at the end of The Usual Suspects as all the puzzle pieces fit neatly into place. (While The Usual Suspects isn't a book, every mystery writer should watch that movie at least three times in a row for a masterclass in hiding clues in plain sight). But there's no trickery here. That's important. The viewer and readers are presented with all the information. It just wasn't threaded together for them.

The risk, of course, in hiding all that delicious information right where any reader paying attention can pick it up and piece it together for themselves, is that someone might stumble across the solution to the riddle on their own. I think that's the reason why so many mystery writers have begun to play coy with information. The desire is to craft an unsolvable Murder on the Orient Express whodunit but the fear is that they don't have the chops.

And my response to this fear is so what?

So what if some of your readers solve the crime? How fun for them to get to the last page and the big reveal and triumphantly shout, "I knew it!"

Stumping 100% of your readers is just fascist, and it's plain old boring, especially once your readers realize that you had to trick them by hiding critical information to do it.

Your reader should never get to the end, learn some new tidbit, and think, "Sure, if I knew that, I would have solved it, too."

That's cheating.

I recently read The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters, and he handles these information revelations in a scandalously tricky way: by tricking his main character, too. When new information appears, new information that would ordinarily piss me off, his policeman slaps his head and says, "Palace, you dummy." Which made me slap my head and say the same about myself because both of us should have seen that coming, but we didn't because, well, you know, there's a big fucking asteroid on its way to destroy the planet and people are losing their minds right and left. But that's the trick. It's sleight of hand in its most devilishly clever form. You're so distracted by the chaos going on around everyone in the story that you don't notice the tiny little clue in the corner waving at you.

Murder On the Orient Express
Harper, reissue
Incidentally, this is also how Christie stumped so many people with Murder on the Orient Express. So many interesting characters. So much backstory. So many loose ends. And most poor readers didn't know which thread to pull to unravel the mystery, myself included. Actually, and this is a true story, bear with me, I did figure it out, I just didn't know it. You see, I loved mysteries when I was a kid, and I prided myself on being able to solve them, even Agatha Christie; so, my mom told me I should read Murder on the Orient Express. I check it out from the Bookmobile and over the course of the week that I was reading it, she'd ask me, "So, did you figure it out, yet?" And at one point I was so frustrated with the sheer volume of clues that I actually said, "No! They all could have done it."

That, my friends, is a real genius at work. Because the solution to the riddle is so improbable, so illogical, that even if you guess it, you won't believe you're right. Christie broke a rule to pull it off, though. A big rule: There can only be one killer, right?

And herein lies the crux of the problem and the solution. Yes, a mystery is a puzzle. Ultimately, that is all a mystery is. It's a riddle in search of a solution. But the really good ones are so much more than that. They have well-drawn characters and a complex story arc that gets from riddle to solution in such a way that you almost forget that you're supposed to be solving a crime. And the solution? Sometimes it's as improbable as the crime itself because rules can be bent, broken, or gleefully ignored and your reader will forgive you for it as long as you didn't lie to them along the way.

It's also what I hoped you've gleaned from this first Mystery Monday post. Write a good story. Draw well-developed characters with a rich backstory. Make your reader forget they're reading a mystery while hiding the solution in plain sight. Play with your readers' bias. Toy with their emotions. Confound their reasoning. Just don't be a coy little muskrat masquerading as a stripper... unless, of course, you've planted all the appropriate clues along the way; then go on, little muskrat, you do you.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Fantasy is Life

Okay, for sake of sounding like the millennial I am, please don't judge me by the title, it will make a whole lot more sense by the end of this post, at least I hope it will. Honestly, who knows with my scatterbrained multiple personalities.

Have you ever had a dream or aspiration and then someone came and told you that you're living in a fantasy world?

But what does that mean?

Sure take the easy way out with the answer "It means unrealistic", but who says?

Who determines what is and isn't realistic?

Okay so this post probably won't be exactly what you were expecting when you saw I was the featured fantasy writer, I can already tell.

Think back to the stone age of Y2K (and if you aren't aware of when that was, God help us all). Think of all the technology we didn't have access to. Cell phones were becoming more and more popular. Texting was a new feature that cell phones had and all the cool kids had it ;)

Now if you compare our phones today to the ones back then, wouldn't it seem like a fantasy world back then?

Here is a better example what about the Salem witch trials... what if those women were just innovators?

Yeah yeah I know there is historical facts and research done and blah blah blah... I don't wanna hear it.

Are you following where I'm going yet? Probably not because I tend to know what I'm talking about while leaving others confused, but let me further explain.

Dreams are fantasy, inspiration can be fantasy, everything in life is a fantasy at one point or another.
My favorite is when people like to ask what your fantasy is almost as if it will never come true, but here is my question, why?

Why have we allowed ourselves to be so close-minded that fantasies seem unattainable? Some might say because of limitations and what the world will physically allow. But that is constantly changing by the people who no longer believe the sky is the limit. People who push the boundaries of our reality, our scientists.

Now, in my opinion, science is just magic that we can understand at this point in time.
So you see fantasy is life. Fantasy is progression and the possibilities of life!!

Friday, June 1, 2018

What Makes Science Fiction So Unique?

I will never forget the book that opened my mind to science fiction. I must have been in second or third grade. My mom had taken me to get some shots and the library next door was having a book sale. I just remember seeing the book A City of Gold and Lead and knowing it was the book I needed to get. My mom did not seem convinced it would be a book I would like but let me get it all the same.

I devoured it! I loved the world John Christopher created. Aliens invade and take over the earth! A young boy joins the resistance. It took me years as a kid to track down and find the other books in the series as this was book two and I needed to know the whole story (this was before the internet so this actually meant looking through old card catalogs). But I never stopped looking and eventually did find and read them.

There is just something about science fiction that has always stuck with me. I know it's not everyone's cup of tea. Some are content to watch the latest Star Wars movie and that's that. This is all fine and dandy but for some of us, science fiction holds more meaning than what's on the blockbuster hits surface.

So what makes science fiction so unique as a genre?

According to the dictionary, science fiction is, "fiction based on imagined future scientific or technological advances and major social or environmental changes, frequently portraying space or time travel and life on other planets."

This is a nice summary, but it leaves out what is implied. When you take on writing about possible futures of our world, deeper issues are exposed. Morals, belief systems, social structures; these are all changed. It is here where I feel the heart of science fiction lies.

Exposing these deeper issues is one of the ways science fiction is unique. It can often mask these issues in the story but because they are different than the world we are currently experiencing they stand out more than in a present-day storyline.

I agree more with the definition from the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction:

 Science fiction is the literature of ideas and philosophy, answering such questions as, "What if?" or "If this goes on...," and is thus sometimes more interested with exploring ideas than developing plot or character, if the memes and ideas under examination are powerful enough to sustain the work. It sometimes seeks to subvert the dominant paradigm, when the author sees the status quo as harmful, and is therefore sometimes considered subversive or transgressive. It explores possibilities and pushes boundaries. It asks the next question, and then the one after that. It is often epistemological - seeking to understand how we know things - ontological, metaphysical, or cosmological. It is concerned with all of us rather than individuals, and with how we got to be what we are, and what we might become.

This explanation of science fiction shows why it is a unique genre. Science fiction asks the big "what if?" questions that face every human. Think of some of the most classic sci-fi stories, such as 1984 by George Orwell. What I love about 1984 is it shows this dystopian world but it was Orwell's way of warning society of what we could become.

It's this idea though, that you can take what you see in the world today and think ahead of what the consequences might be if we keep down the same path. This is the big "what if?" science fiction writers ask.

Another aspect of science fiction that is unique is its concern with humanity as a whole versus individuality. Science fiction stories serve as a way for us as a whole to check ourselves. They cause us as a whole to ask, "is this what we want for our future? How can we change things to keep this from happening?"

The more people asking these questions the more likely there will be change. It's healthy to take a step back and look at the big picture. Science fiction is the act of taking a step back and communicating these heavy questions through storytelling.

It is these facets that draw me to science fiction as a genre. At its core science fiction is a way to ask the big 'what if?' questions and explore what they mean for our future as a whole. Science fiction stories do have familiar memes found in other genres; romance, adventure, mystery, but they also take it a step further. These memes are not the central theme of the story, nor should they be in a science fiction novel. It is the large 'what if?' question the story is asking that the reader is made to confront.

What draws you to science fiction?