Success only flourishes in perseverance -- ceaseless, restless perseverance.
--Baron Manfred Von Richtofen

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sick Leave

Well, I've come down with pnuemonia. =( I really need to rest up and take it easy so I can make it to LTUE next week. I don't want to miss that!

Therefore, I'm not going to post on here this week. I'll be back with more Writing Speculative Fiction posts when I'm feeling better.

Good news, though! We are just a few weeks away from the release of Defenders of the Covenant! I'll be holding a big blog celebration for that, with lots of prizes up for grabs. So, stay tuned!

See you soon!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Writing Speculative Fiction: Part III--Rules for Writing Speculative Fiction

Of course all the normal rules for good writing apply to speculative fiction (and you can read about those rules here if you like), but there are some others to consider if you want to write science fiction or fantasy--and all their myriad sub-genres.

Know Your Audience: Okay, this one applies to all writing, too. When you are writing speculative fiction, you need to understand that your audience is bright, curious and looking for something to ignite their sense of wonder. They like to figure things out for themselves rather than have it handed to them. You should not talk down to your spec-fic audience. They hate that. You have to go easy on the explanations of things or they'll get irritated and stop reading. I'll go into the handling of exposition in more detail in another post.

 Know What's Already Out There: I suppose this is true for any genre also. You need to know what's already been done in the speculative fiction world so you're not just rehashing old ideas. Of course, there are never really any new ideas, but you have to give those ideas your own fresh perspective and you can't do that unless you know what perspectives have already been done to death. Reading speculative fiction, and lots of it, is basically the only way to accomplish this.

Internal Consistency: When writing speculative fiction, you're going to create a whole new world, or perhaps it will be our world, but with a different set of rules. Your world must be consistent with itself, or your readers will hate you. Your technology must function the same way all the time. Your magic must operate by the same set of rules all the time. Your readers have to willing suspend their disbelief, and it is hard to do that if your world doesn't abide by it's own set of rules. World building will also be the topic of a near-future post.

So, any other speculative fiction rules I might have missed?

Up next: Writing Speculative Fiction: Part IV--Exposition

Read Part I--What is Speculative Fiction?
Read Part II--The Difference Between Science Fiction and Fantasy

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Favorite Character Blogfest: Introducing Derek Halstead

I don't sign up for many blogfests, but this one sounded fun. Plus, I figure it's time to start introducing the Defenders of the Covenant to the world. Laura Josephsen is hosting this one and there are even prizes up for grabs. Go check out her blog to read the other entries.

We're supposed to pick our favorite character (Oh, so hard!) and introduce them to you with a little snippet. There are even prizes up for grabs! So here goes. Introducing my personal favorite, Derek Halstead. (Though, I must say I love all my characters. Really. I feel like a mother asked to choose a favorite child!)

Derek is eighteen years old, smart, nerdy and shy. He's about 5' 8", has dark hair, brown eyes, and can't see without his glasses. Sounds like your typical nerd, huh? But Derek is far from typical. Here's a little snippet from Defenders of the Covenant. Derek, Hannah, Jeremy and McKenzie have just left their hidden refuge for the first time in their lives, and Derek realizes that they won't be able to return:


Derek slapped his hand against the stone wall and hung his head. He chastised himself for letting Jeremy taunt him into leaving the refuge. The whir of the flying machine outside echoed through the cave. He pressed his hand harder against the rock. The gritty roughness bit into him, controlling the fear and frustration that threatened to undo him.

Hannah stood beside him, whispering through the dark, "The leaders will come for us, won't they?" Her voice shook. She wanted reassurance that Derek couldn't give her. Oh, he longed to put his arms around her, to comfort and protect her, but he was smart enough to know that she didn't want that from him. And he couldn't tell her everything would be fine when he knew it wouldn't. More frustration knotted up inside him. Without answering, he walked away and crouched at the cave's entrance.

"Yeah," Jeremy piped up. "We'll just hide in here until they do."

The idiot. "Be quiet," Derek hissed back at him. If the leaders opened the doors now, the refuge would be exposed. He could see the machine out there, hanging in the sky, a dark orb barely distinguishable from the night. No one came out of it, though. Probably a probe, he thought.


Well, that's Derek. Defenders of the Covenant will be available from Walnut Springs Press in February or March of this year. In case you've missed my previous posts, here's a description of the book:

Hannah and her friends have been warned about the danger lurking outside of their secret refuge, but some things, like friendship and freedom, are more important than staying safe.

Hannah and Derek have spent their lives hidden underground, out of the reach of the alien invaders who devastated the world years before. When McKenzie and Jeremy decide to run away, Hannah and Derek follow, determined to bring their friends home.

Once outside, the four teens soon realize they cannot return to their refuge without endangering everyone there. Captured, enslaved and separated, Hannah, Derek and McKenzie each learn the unique role they must play in liberating the Earth, because even an alien invasion cannot stop the work of God. 

P.S. The Writing Speculative Fiction series will return on Friday!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Writing Speculative Fiction: Part II-The Difference Between Science Fiction and Fantasy

I'm going to do a series of posts on speculative fiction for a class I'll be teaching at an upcoming writing conference. Hope you all will find some value here!

 As you can see from my last post, speculative fiction covers a wide array of genres. Today, I'm going to focus on what are, in my opinion, the two main branches of speculative fiction, science fiction and fantasy. The two have some similarities and some differences. Let's take a look at each.

Both sci-fi and fantasy deal with the world as we don't know it. In other words, they both speculate about what could be different from our known reality. At it's simplest, difference between the two is that sci-fi deals with aliens and spaceships, fantasy deals with wizards and elves. That's an oversimplification, but it does work.

Science Fiction deals with science and technology. What could possibly be out there that we just haven't developed or don't know about yet. I've heard many times that science fiction has to have some aspect of science so intrinsically tied into the plot that if you remove the science, you have no plot. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is the oft cited example--perhaps the world's first science fiction novel. That is true, if you want to give a strict definition, but I find a lot of leeway in most novels that clearly fall into the science fiction realm. If it's set on another planet, deals with aliens, takes place in space, deals with technology or society of the future (or even an alternate past), then it's sci-fi in my book.

Fantasy deals with magic of some sort. It's not considered scientific or technological. It's a power that usually only certain people possess. Fantasy can be set in medieval times, modern times, or even in the future, on Earth or some other world entirely, though usually the world is more like an alternate earth than another planet out in space somewhere. That's not a hard and fast rule, though. This is an art after all, not a science. ;) Fantasy often deals with non-human creatures who are native to the earth/world of the story--not aliens from somewhere else.

Of course, there are many flavors of both sci-fi and fantasy, and many times the two are blended and can be hard to separate or classify. To me, that is one of the strengths of speculative fiction. It's inclusive. It's adaptable and it's fun!

Next up: Part III--Rules For Writing Speculative Fiction

Read Part I--What is Speculative Fiction?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Writing Speculative Fiction--Part I: What is Speculative Fiction?

I'm going to do a series of posts on speculative fiction for a class I'll be teaching at an upcoming writing conference. Hope you all will find some value here!

Speculative fiction, according to Wikipedia, is: "an umbrella term encompassing the more fantastical fiction genres, specifically science fiction, fantasy, horror, supernatural fiction, superhero fiction, utopian and dystopian fiction, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, and alternate history in literature as well as related static, motion, and virtual arts."

In other words, speculative fiction is the type of fiction that speculates about something contrary to our known reality. Speculative fiction answers the question, "What if?"

What if we had faster-than-light space travel?

What if aliens visited Earth?

What if magic were real?

What if dragons existed?

What if a natural disaster destroyed civilization as we know it?

The possibilities are limitless, once we willingly suspend our disbelief. I think that's why I love reading, watching and especially writing speculative fiction so much.

What are your thoughts on what constitutes speculative fiction?

Up next: Part II: The difference between science fiction and fantasy

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Book That Started It All

Back in 1988, I went into the back room of Blockbuster Video for my dinner break. Bored, I picked up a book on the table and started reading. I read three chapters before my break was over and I had to put it down. I loved those three chapters. I couldn't wait to read more! But the next day, the book wasn't there anymore. I didn't know who had brought it and I couldn't remember the title or the author. Oh, well. I didn't think about it again. Until...

1989. I'm in college and a friend told me I just had to read this wonderful book. He handed me Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. I was delighted to realize that was it! The book I started to read at Blockbuster. Naturally, I loved it. I remember reading the end of the book in a car with a guy friend who was driving us back to BYU after visiting family in Vegas. I was bawling my head off! He must have thought I was so weird.

That's the book that really sparked my love and science fiction and made me want to write it too. Now, finally, it's going to be made into a movie! With Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley and all sorts of other wonderful actors. Am I excited? Oh, just a little. =D

Is there one book you can name that sparked something wonderful for you?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What Makes a Great Book Great

Photo by Mattox
Read any great books lately? I have. Great books can be found in any genre and from any time period, but they all have a few things in common, at least in my opinion.

Great book have great characters. Characters we can love. Characters we can hate. Characters we can root for. Characters we want to hang out with. Characters we want to be. I believe great characters are the most important part of a great book.

Great books also have great plots. Plots that matter. Plots that make our hearts pound and linger with us long after we put the book down. Great plots stem from great characters.

Great books also have a strong sense of setting. We feel like we are there, whether it's New York City, a small country farm, or a faraway fantasy kingdom. We can see it, smell it, feel it, live in it. It's so much more than just the geography. It's the culture, the history and everything else culminating in a place so real we can visit it again and again in our mind.

Great books have real emotion. They make us feel something. Joy, pain, love, hate, envy, peace. Great books bring out the strongest emotions inside us. They show us what it is to be human.

Character, plot, setting, emotion. Those are what makes a great book great. At least in my opinion. Are there any other elements you would add?

Read any great books lately?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Avoidance Tactics

Have you ever had a day like mine?

9am--Drop my youngest son off at preschool. Now I have 2.5 hours free to write! But, wait. I'd better send a couple of emails and make some phone calls first. (I'm planning a funeral luncheon, so that was totally legit.) And oh, yeah. It's Friday. I need to post a short story on my Facebook page. I need to write a blog post too. I'll do that first and then write. But I have no blog post ideas. I guess I'll just read blogs and catch up on typing instead. Suddenly it's:
11:30am--Pick up my son from preschool, feed him lunch and take him to his friend's house. I know have approximately 3 hours free to write! Sweet. Except I have some more email to answer and more phone calls to make. Now it's 12:30, and it sure is a nice day out. I think I'll go for a walk at the park. I need the exercise, right? Right. That takes until:

2pm--It's time to make a salad to take over to my neighbors. (This is also related to the upcoming funeral.) Then I pick up my son from his friend's house and it's almost time to get the other kids home from school. I'll just read Facebook until then. And finalize the funeral luncheon arrangements. And make a few more phone calls. Now it's:

4pm--I can really, really write now. Really. I think the food is all arranged for the funeral. But, hey! I finally got an idea for a blog post. I'll just write that, and then I'll work on my novel. Maybe...

Does that sound familiar? Do you ever avoid writing? What do you do to get around it?

I'd love to know, but now I am going to sit down and WRITE. I promise.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Wish For 2012

You know I'm a big believer in goals. I have a goal for this month to write at least 50 pages. After losing all writing momentum in December I really need something to get  me moving again.

But goals are nothing without the motivation to achieve them. I believe that motivation comes from what you wish for. What you dream about. What you want so badly you'd do anything for it.

So, instead of talking about New Year's Resolutions, I'm asking you to make a wish instead. I think the reason we fail at resolutions is because we don't really care enough to make them work. But if we wish for something, wish for it with all our hearts, then we do what it takes to make it happen.

What is your wish in 2012? Do you wish to see yourself on the NYT Bestseller List? To get an agent? To finish a book? To start one?

Take a minute and think about what you really wish for this year. Write it down and keep it where you'll see it often. Believe that you can have your wish.

Then set some goals that will bring you closer to your wish. Hopefully, with your dearest wish in mind, the goals will be easier to keep.

My wish for 2012? I wish to get two books published this year. I know one of them will be, but I'd like to get the second book out there this year too.

That's my wish. What's yours?

I hope 2012 is the year when your wishes come true!