Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Setting Is Character

by Corrina Lawson

Setting is character.

That was the advice given to me by award-winning Young Adult author Robin LaFevers years ago when I was struggling with describing the world my characters inhabited. I wanted to write dialogue, not focus on the room everyone was standing in. But I was going about it all wrong. The room isn't important because the character is standing in it. The room is important because of how the character perceives it.

Take St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. A New York City native Irish Catholic priest is going to walk into the church with a completely different mindset than a California native dedicated to New Age ideals. It's not the Cathedral that's important, it's how each one reacts to the Cathedral.

Once I learned this lesson, description came much easier for me, as it was part of how my character viewed the world.

World-building is just a bigger extension of this idea. It's part of the character's voice and how they see the world. And if the writer lacks a strong idea of the world, the characters are going to be moving through indistinct mush. That's true if the setting is contemporary New York City or a far-flung space station or Regency England or, as in the case of my latest novel, The Curse of the Brimstone Contract, an alternate world Victorian London.

Take the two characters above. The New York City of each one is going to be a far different. I just finished a fantastic mystery, Invisible City by Julia Dahl, in which an inexperience reporter investigated the murder of a Hasidic Jew. The reporter's mother was a member of this community and fled back to it after her daughter's birth. What the reader experiences is a layered, complex section of New York City from an outsider's point of view. And, even more, the writer also creates a unique newsroom setting for when the reporter goes to work. All of that is necessary worldbuilding, even though the setting is contemporary.

And I think world-building is more than getting details of the setting right. It's sometimes making the oddities of the setting seem absolutely commonplace to the character who inhabit it. In Linnea Sinclair's Dock Five series, often the characters use slang for items in their world, a slang that isn't always explained. Sinclair also adds in weapons with unique names, each with a slightly different purpose. The characters don't carry laser or energy weapons, they have "boring" Surgers or Norlack 473 snipers, modified to handle wide load slash ammo. I'm not quite sure what slash ammo is myself but the characters are damn sure what it is, and that's what is important.

That deep-worlding is still something I'm learning myself. I spent a great deal of time immersing myself in a handbook written in the Victorian Age for Jewish women, particularly the parts with cooking and sewing. For some reason, I had decided to make a seamstress my heroine and yet, my only experience with sewing is a class in high school and hemming pants. So I spent much time talking with those who create clothes and found that process had some similarities to creative writing and found my way in. But Joan Krieger's profession isn't just important as her job, it's important as the way she views the world. She's a merchant, so that puts her at one class level. She's among beautiful things that she can seldom afford to have her herself. She's independent and capable of running her own business but also at the mercy of clients who consider her beneath them. And then there was another layer, and that's magic in her world, and I used Sinclair as a guide for how the people in this world would talk about magic. They'd have special words for it, they'd have slang for certain elements of it, and there would be people who would understand but also misunderstand it.

World building done right is what makes readers want to live in the world. Batman is just a guy dressed up as a Bat hitting people without Gotham. Elves are just generic Elves unless you place them into somewhere like Middle Earth and give them a rich history and culture. Without a revolution fueled by magic and steam, Joan exist in our Victorian London and wouldn't be the person she becomes. And the Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson of the BBC's Sherlock aren't quite the same in the modern day as they were in Conan Doyle's original stories.

I'd even flip on Robin's original statement. Setting is character but character is setting as well.

Invisible City

Robin LaFevers' Amazon page


Carrina Lawson's new release, The Curse of the Brimstone Contract.

Corrina Lawson's Amazon page

Thursday, April 24, 2014

SFRB Recomends #14: On #Writing #Romance

If you write romance, this book is a must-have. Get thee to wherever you buy books from and get it!

Leigh Michaels has 148 books listed on her Goodreads page, most of them romances. She knows what she's talking about.

She covers what a romance novel is, how to research what else is out there to make sure your idea is unique enough to stand out, the essential elements of a romance, how to balance sexual tension, even some tips on sex scenes.

There's some basic stuff in the book on point of view and how to build your plot.

She wraps it up with some advice on how to edit, and how to submit.

I've read a lot of stuff on how to write romances, and this is without doubt THE book to read to learn what a romance is, and more importantly, what a romance isn't. If you want to hook romance readers you have to respect the genre, and this book shows you how to do it.

Author site: Leigh Michaels - Author, Teacher, Editor

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

How much would you weigh on an exoplanet?

Kepler 69c
I posted this article on my own site some time ago (2012) and it garnered so much interest I thought it worth repeating for the SFR audience. Yes, there's maths, but it's easy maths because that's the only kind I can do.  Don't believe anybody who tells you a computer programmer has to be able to add up.


I was reading an article from somebody, all enthusiastic about the exo-planets the Kepler probe keeps finding. They’re all many times larger than planet Earth even if they’re in the ‘Goldilocks’ zone. You know the one – not too close, not too far, just right. That is, a planet neither too close to its primary nor too far away, where liquid water could exist. My immediate reaction was ‘sure, but we’d weigh too much’.
Then I wondered how much more. I’m not a mathematician – never have been. In truth, I can’t add up to save my life. So I’m counting on you (ha ha) to correct me if I get this wrong. Please note that this all assumes that the planet we're talking about is rocky, like Earth and Mars. I can't see us wanting to settle on a place like Jupiter or Neptune any time soon.

I discovered this site http://www.exploratorium.edu/ronh/weight/ and learned that gravitational pull weakens by the radius squared. So let’s say you weighed 60kg on planet Earth. Planet Gliese 581g is estimated at 2.6 Earth masses and 1.4 Earth radii. So yes, you’re going to weigh more on Gliese 581g, but not 2.6 times as much. If I’ve got this right, the increased diameter of the planet means you’ll weigh about 1.3 times as much – so about 78kg. That’s certainly not a huge imposition. And all of a sudden, I’m bouncing in my chair, going oooh oooh.
Here’s some estimated figures about Gliese 581g, taken from this fascinating website http://phl.upr.edu/projects/habitable-exoplanets-catalog

Mass = 2.6 Earth Radius = 1.4 Earth  Temp = average surface temperature, so this place, at 10, is rather cooler than our 15 degrees (NASA’s figure from 2008), but the estimate of average temperature assumes an Earth-like atmosphere, which is a pretty big assumption. On the face of it the planet zips around its sun in a fraction of the time it takes ours, taking only 32 days as compared to 365. But that might not be the case, since the Gliesean day may be much longer than Earth’s. The figures don’t mention period of rotation, which I find a tad surprising. As a comparison, Venus’s ‘day” (the time it takes to rotate on its axis) is actually longer than its year (the time it takes to orbit the Sun.) (http://www.universetoday.com/14282/how-long-is-a-day-on-venus/)

So there you have it. I found out today that a candidate for Torreno (capital of the Coalition of Worlds in Morgan’s Choice) may be only 20.2 light years away. And with the shift drive of the future, that’ll be a place to add to your holiday plans.
Ain’t science grand?

Greta van der Rol loves writing action-packed adventures with a side salad of romance. Most of her work is space opera, but she has written paranormal and historical fiction.

She lives not far from the coast in Queensland, Australia and enjoys photography and cooking when she isn't bent over the computer. She has a degree in history and a background in building information systems, both of which go a long way toward helping her in her writing endeavours.
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/Greta.J.vanderrol

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Call to Action - The Brenda Novak Auction

The Brenda Novak Auction opens May 1, and with the support of the Brigade to help get the word out, this is a HUGE opportunity to introduce hundreds--even thousands--of new readers to the Science Fiction Romance genre. We've put together a category of exciting sci-fi and space exploration items to draw in our target audience and showcase SFR books.

We're planning a strategic launch to promote our category about 10 days before the auction begins: April 20th. 

This is where the SFR Brigade community can really shine in promoting SFR! Let's take this opportunity to get the word out! (You can use the pre-made snippets below or craft your own.)

Please feel free to add your own to the list.

Here's the shortened link to the "Out-of-this-World Offerings from the SFR Brigade" category:

Check out the SFR Brigade's far-out offerings in the Brenda Novak Auction for Diabetes Research, "For the Cure." http://bit.ly/1jgNHZl

Love the romance of sci-fi? See the cool offerings from the @SFRBrigade in the Novak Auction for Diabetes Research! http://bit.ly/1jgNHZl

Space boots & movies & novels, oh my! See the SFR Brigade bounty in the Brenda Novak Auction for Diabetes Research! http://bit.ly/1jgNHZl

What fun space treasures did the SFR Brigade find in their cargo holds for the @BrendaNovakAuctionhttp://bit.ly/1jgNHZl

Trekker? Browncoat? Star Wars fan? Don't miss the @SFRBrigade category of the @BrendaNovakAuctionhttp://bit.ly/1jgNHZl

Space fan? Check out these offerings: Memorabilia, movies and more from the @SFRBrigade in the @BrendaNovakAuctionhttp://bit.ly/1jgNHZl

Big news! The SFR Brigade is sponsoring a category in the Brenda Novak Online Auction for Diabetes Research. Check out these fabulous far-out offerings "For the Cure." http://bit.ly/1jgNHZl

Love the romance of space exploration and science fiction? The SFR Brigade offers a sneak peek at its category of cool offerings for the Brenda Novak Online Auction for Diabetes Research. Auction begins May 1, but get a sneak peek here! http://bit.ly/1jgNHZl

Space boots and collectibles and novels, oh my! Memorabilia, movies and more. Check out the SFR Brigade category in the Brenda Novak Online Auction for Diabetes Research! http://bit.ly/1jgNHZl

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Heather Massey Blogs About Steampunk, Gamebooks, and Women in SF&F

I'm cross-posting my latest blogging news from The Galaxy Express:

When it rains, it pours. That's true not only of the weather outside my window, but also three guest posts of mine that all went live today!

Sci-Fi Romance: A New Kind of Hero

At Fantasy Book Cafe, I'm a participant in this year's Women in SF&F month! I'd enjoyed the posts of that event in years past and was delighted when hostess Kristen invited me to contribute an article.

The topic is my love of science fiction romance and how the "...genre has rewritten the hero narrative in order to give female characters leading roles as well as explore love and sex in a science fictional setting."

I presented a number of titles I've enjoyed, and the selection also serves to highlight the sheer variety available in this genre.

Interactive Stories: Past, Present, and Future

Author Ella Drake (DESERT BLADE) kindly provided me with some time at the CONTACT - Infinite Futures podium to blog about gamebooks, a.k.a. "choose your own adventure" type stories.

Given the release of my own interactive science fiction romance DANGEROUS RENDEZVOUS (SilkWords), it was a fun chance to delve into the history of interactive stories as well as contemplate how they might evolve in the future.

The Important Contribution of Finnegan H.H. O'Riordan's Sky Pirate: Safe Harbor

My Coffee Time Romance steampunk romance column this month focuses on a charming story called SKY PIRATES: SAFE HARBOR by Finnegan H.H. O'Riordan. The tale includes airships, automaton action, and steampunk inventions, but also a rare level of diversity in steampunk romance. For that contribution, it deserves a commendation.


Monday, April 14, 2014

A Wreck of Titanic Proportions in Outer Space

The sinking of the unsinkable luxury liner Titanic has inspired many a book and movie over the 102 years since ship-met-iceberg, including my own "Wreck of the Nebula Dream."  

Aside from the nonfiction accounts and straightforward romance novels set on Titanic, there have been stories featuring everything from time travel to werewolves.  Even Douglas Adams, he of “The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” fame wrote a comedic treatment with Terry Jones of Monty Python in the last 1990’s, based on a cd-rom game, odd as that may sound. Reading a synopsis of the book on Amazon, however, the work doesn’t seem to have taken much from Titanic but the name.

Certainly there was nothing humorous about the sinking.

Right from the beginning though, what I wanted to write was a serious novel, set in the far future, on a space-going luxury liner. Originally I thought I’d be able to pretty much follow the pattern of what happened to Titanic for my own plot, somewhat changed to reflect the future and the “ocean of space”, versus the Atlantic.

My characters felt otherwise. I’m a very seat-of-the-pants style novelist and almost as soon as I began figuring out who would be aboard and what catastrophes might occur, I could see I was going to be loosely suggesting Titanic. Actually, that was a freeing realization, because in the 1912 sinking so many people lost their lives and there are relatives and descendants worldwide who are still affected by the ripples from the tragedy. I didn’t want to write anything that might reflect back on the real people who sailed on Titanic.

I kept the situation though – a middle of the night disaster, not enough lifeboats, no lifeboat drill, too much speed, new engines, inability to get help in a timely manner, communications issues…and men, women and children in jeopardy. I gave some nods to well known facets of the Titanic, starting my novel with a scene on board the shuttle, where a female passenger creates a fuss, having had a terrifying premonition of the disaster. In 1912 many people had documented premonitions of disaster and foreboding dreams about Titanic, and about 50 actually cancelled their passage.
There’s an entire deck of the Nebula Dream that’s the swimming area, complete with a beach – Titanic had an actual swimming pool, which was considered quite a novelty at the time. I have one rich passenger on my ship searching for her jewels in the damaged hold area, picking up on the theme of the women who tried to retrieve theirs from the Titanic’s purser after the ship struck the iceberg.

Of course, this being science fiction, I threw in some twists and turns abut who or what comes looking for the ship in distress (but no spoilers from me!)….

I’ve always thought it was especially poignant that so many children perished when Titanic sank, so I included Paolo age 8 and Gianna age 3 as two of my characters, representing in my mind all the little ones who didn’t survive in 1912. I made sure my hero Nick,  and every other person in the group, was  devoted to getting the children safely off the Nebula Dream.

Speaking of Nick, when I was thinking about who the hero should be, I asked myself who I’d want there with me if I was in such a perilous situation. A Special Forces soldier sounded about right! Once I figured out why he’d be traveling on such a luxurious vessel, the plot fell into place.  Mara Lyrae,the heroine, is a high powered business executive, who worked her way up from entry level to the heights of intergalactic corporate power, but hasn’t forgotten anything she learned along the way.  She also does not buy into “women and children first” when it comes to herself. She’s in the thick of trying to rescue others. There was at least one business woman on the Titanic, Lady Duff-Gordon for example, who was a well-known fashion designer of her time.

Even I couldn’t ensure that all the passengers survived in the book, any more than everyone survived the Titanic sinking…but there’s a Happily Ever After ending for some people. Because this is a romance after all.

Much as I like writing in seat-of-the-pants style, it soon became apparent I’d better sit down and design my starship, so I’d know which deck had what and could explain to the Readers where Nick and the others were going at any given time. I still have that hand drawn schematic, not that it’s exactly a thing of beauty!  But this was one time I really did have to do the details before the writing.

2013 SFR Galaxy Award and Laurel Wreath Winner

Traveling unexpectedly aboard the luxury liner Nebula Dream on its maiden voyage across the galaxy, Sectors Special Forces Captain Nick Jameson is ready for ten relaxing days, and hoping to forget his last disastrous mission behind enemy lines. He figures he’ll gamble at the casino, take in the shows, maybe even have a shipboard fling with Mara Lyrae, the beautiful but reserved businesswoman he meets.

All his plans vaporize when the ship suffers a wreck of Titanic proportions. Captain and crew abandon ship, leaving the 8000 passengers stranded without enough lifeboats and drifting unarmed in enemy territory. Aided by Mara, Nick must find a way off the doomed ship for himself and several other innocent people before deadly enemy forces reach them or the ship’s malfunctioning engines finish ticking down to self destruction.

But can Nick conquer the demons from his past that tell him he’ll fail these innocent people just as he failed to save his Special Forces team? Will he outpace his own doubts to win this vital race against time?

Audiobook, narrated by Actor Michael Riffle – Available Now at Amazon and iTunes

Where Readers can find me:

Thursday, April 10, 2014

SFRB Recommends #13: Cosmic Tentacles by Heather Massey #scifi #sfromance #sfr

This week's SFRB Recommends comes to you from Sabine Priestley.

Cosmic Tentacles: A Love Story - by Heather Massey

The distant future. Lydia, a pastry chef working on an elite space station, is looking forward to a scorching sexual encounter with Ricardo, the hot shuttle pilot she'd been lusting after for months. But the appearance of a mysterious asteroid changes everything.When the research group sent to study it loses contact with the station, Ricardo flies a rescue team to the asteroid. Hours later, he returns--as the lone survivor.With the tragedy seemingly behind them, Lydia and Ricardo meet for a date despite regulations forbidding all contact. In a dark room, she discovers Ricardo is more than the man he used to be. Dare she surrender to his raw, otherworldly passion?

This was a fun, fast read. I enjoyed the characters, although we don’t really get to know Ricardo well. It’s wonderfully twisted. You’re going to want to push that Suspension of Disbelief button down hard on this, and just enjoy the ride.

This is for adults only. Adults who like to be filled in every way, and everywhere possible.

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Author site: Heather Massey

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Archetype Is Not A Dirty Word

Courtesy Master isolated images
In September 2012, while at a writer's conference, I had a major light bulb moment. My heroine at the time was giving me fits, and I couldn't nail her down to save my life. Because of that issue, and knowing I always struggle with creating heroines, I decided to do a class all about heroines.

I'd been exposed to the idea of archetypes before and had read some of the Joseph Campbell stuff. But none of his archetypes really stuck with me in a way I felt I could use. While in this class I learned about some I'd never heard before, and everything clicked.

The teacher used archetypes put together by author Tami Cowden. For heroines she has Boss, Seductress, Spunky Kid, Free Spirit, Waif, Librarian, Crusader, and Nurturer, along with examples for each from movies. The class handout included Tami's description for each type. My heroine I was fighting at the time is a Librarian. Once I read it she made complete sense and stopped fighting me.

First thing I did when I got home (after sleeping for 13 hours) was go to Tami's website to see what else she had hidden there. Lo and behold there was a page with Hero archetypes! Now we're talking. I'm all about the hero when it comes to a romance. I don't fight with them like I do my heroines, but I had begun to notice a pattern in how I constructed my heroes. (She has a page for villains too, and ebooks that go into more detail.)

Her hero archetypes are Chief, Bad Boy, Best Friend, Charmer, Lost Soul, Professor, Swashbuckler, and Warrior. These make more sense to me than the Hero's Journey archetypes.

Once I read this page and clipped it to my Evernote so I'd always have it, I could put a name to the pattern I was looking at in my heroes. I love Warriors. Here's her description:
A noble champion, he acts with honor. This man is the reluctant rescuer or the knight in shining armor. He's noble, tenacious, relentless, and he always sticks up for the underdog. If you need a protector, he’s your guy. He doesn’t buckle under to rules, and he doesn’t go along just to get along. Think Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry, Russell Crowe in Gladiator, Mel Gibson in Braveheart.
Every hero I love in books and movies is a Warrior. If he's a wounded Warrior, all the better. Give me a hero with a noble heart, who is a gentleman to his core, protective of the ones he loves, and able to put others' needs before his own and I'm hooked.

My second favorite hero archetype is the Lost Soul. He usually shows up in my writing as one of the hero's closest friends and I can contrast them. It's a lot of fun. Archetypes aren't restrictive, either. There's infinite variety to play with within each form. Then there's the mixing you can do with having a dominant archetype and a secondary archetype. You're limited only by your imagination.

What's your favorite archetype for a hero?

Rachel Leigh Smith is a romance writer, a geek, and a Southern belle. She lives in Louisiana with a half-crazed calico named Zoe. When not adding words to an SFR novel she’s reading paranormal romance or crafting while watching some type of SF on TV. She’s still unpublished, but hopefully not for long. She also blogs sporadically at www.rachelleighsmith.com and hangs out on Facebook.

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