Writing is so difficult that I often feel that writers, having had their hell on earth, will escape all punishment hereafter.”
~ Jessamyn West
As I have discussed before on a number of occasions, I was raised by women, with very few adult men, and no close contact with them, in my life until my DI introduced himself to me at the age of 17. Because of this, I feel like I have a unique, or at least a very uncommon understanding of women and the issues they face. This blog, of course, is about writing, and the fact that I’ve hit a wall in that department, so how does my view of women enter into this discussion? Well, I’ve been thinking long and hard about why I’m stuck, and I’ve come to an epiphany: For all of the stories and genres I’ve dabbled in, I only know one story. Like all statements, that’s a generality, and there are a few exceptions early in my writing, but as I matured as an author I settled into a groove, as it were, and in the harsh light of day, that groove looks more like a rut. Let’s take a closer look.
The story is about a feisty young woman with an older male mentor. It begins with my best-known work, and my most popular character, Patience Hobbs of Beyond the Rails, Soldier of the Crown, and Slayer of Darkness. Patience is a young woman in her mid-twenties in those stories under the mentorship of an older male, former commodore Clinton Monroe. Is she feisty? Accepted as family by distant cousins in a noble house of London, she has fled to Africa to become an airship pilot. Having lived in the Big House from the age of six or so, and attended the finishing schools that taught her what was expected of a lady in proper society, she has decided that she has no desire to be a man’s captive trophy, and has left to seek adventure.
Joining her in the first book was Abigail “Jinx” Jenkins, an Australian larrikin with an older male mentor who accompanied the crew on a grand adventure that spanned three stories. I brought her back without her mentor in the third book, and set up a spinoff, The Darklighters, in which she would be the lead investigator in a sort of Victorian Man From U.N.C.L.E. series, along with an older male, not precisely a mentor, but an older, wiser, and less volatile character who leaves the airship to join her in her crusade against evil.
More? Consider Possession of Blood, available at one of the tabs at the top of the page. I left it up because it is a completed story, but it was intended to be the lead story of The Nexus Chronicles, a series about a society of unsung heroes working against supernatural entities for the good of mankind. The starring heroes? Bailey O’Keefe, Irish female, mid-twenties, and her older Japanese male mentor, Makoto Nagoya. Beginning to see a pattern here?
How about The Stone Seekers? If you guessed that Galena is a fierce warrior in her mid-twenties, and Jevahn is an older male woodsman who is partnered up with her, well, that wasn’t much of a stretch at this point, was it?
In The Orphan Princess, an under-construction epic fantasy, there are two such pairings, Edanna, the titular Orphan Princess, and her loyal bodyguard Vychan, and Jade, daughter of a famous pirate, and her mentor, her late father’s bosun Finch. I cringe to admit that I may have been setting up a third such paring, members of a loose gang of thieves, an elf girl and an older dwarf. I have begun to suspect that the reason I can’t make Stingaree progress is that it lacks such a pair, and before you suggest the obvious solution of putting one in, know that it is over halfway finished, and bringing in a pair of new characters now would be tantamount to starting over; that option isn’t on the table!
So it seems to me that if I’m going to do any more writing going forward, I’m going to have to concentrate on one series that contains just such a pair of characters; to continue all these threads that I have named above would be to invite accusations of being a one-dimensional hack . . . Which may be true, but is nonetheless a label I wouldn’t be comfortable wearing. I also think I need a new genre, as steampunk is beginning to feel very limiting as far as the way it interacts with my personal writing style. Another blogger posted a hilarious spoof of a TV pitch for an imaginary SyFy Channel series years ago that I considered exploring, and recently passed along a note asking whether he would mind if I did so. I have received no reply, and I have to guess at this point that the answer to that is no. Ideas continue to kick around the big empty space inside my head, and who knows, maybe one will gel. Lord knows I’ll have plenty of time to think about it by the time I finish posting Chameleon and then Broken English, which I haven’t even started yet.
As an aside to all of this, I want to introduce you to a wonderful lady who I’ve been on-line friends with for several years, since back in the days of The Steampunk Empire. The name she uses for her public persona is Poppy Appleton, and you can find her on Facebook. She’s one of many on-line friends who I’ve never met, even though she lives in San Diego. Poppy is a celebrity cosplayer who is well-known at conventions throughout the southwest. She has a range of characters from steampunk to Star Wars and several points between, and is never too busy to put on a Hollywood-quality rig and turn out at some shindig that benefits children. Her Facebook page is a treasure trove of photos and videos of the full range of her looks and how she constructs them, and one that I am especially fond of is the one I’ve posted here. I’m quite certain she’s never read Beyond the Rails, but if she hasn’t channeled Patience Hobbs with this outfit, I’d like to see one closer. Poppy’s face is more dramatic than Patience’s “cutesy” look, but seriously, this is like my most popular character come to life!
And a final note here, a format change is in the works. This blog has become a bit long and unwieldy as I attempt to shoehorn more and more into it, so in the interest of keeping it manageable for both writer and reader, I am going to split it into two separate projects. Sunday’s posts will consist of whatever “interesting reading” I have managed to accumulate, including my own ramblings about who-knows-what. Thursdays will be given over to book promotions, or “ads,” if you like, for items that used to go in the Interesting Books category. So if you favor one aspect of the blog over the other, you will shortly be able to find your preferred reading on a specific day. Of course, I wouldn’t be offended if the odd reader or two showed up for both of them!
I read this piece by Richard Paolinelli, an admin at the Facebook Science Fiction and Fantasy Creator’s Guild. I’m passing it along here because I have some friends who deal in audio books, but beyond that, everyone who creates or partakes needs to be aware of this:
For members who have either had a book converted into an audiobook – or for any narrators here as well – I discovered four YouTube accounts that had illegally uploaded one of my audiobooks in full and they had been viewed hundreds of times. These same accounts had other authors’ books uploaded as well.
“I have filed a complaint with YouTube, but also informed Audible about the piracy being hosted on YouTube. Audible’s legal department has quickly filed takedown notices and is investigating further action against YouTube and four account holders.
“If you have any audiobooks out there, please regularly check (I found mine via a Google search) and make sure yours aren’t out there in the wind, too. If you find them there or anywhere else, please contact Audible immediately. They will get after these pirates.”
Be aware of this new (to me) form of piracy, and like they say to every boxer, “Protect yourself at all times!” Also be aware that these criminals will often block the author from viewing the account, so log out and search as a random user. Don’t let them steal your work! His original post can be read on his blog, The Eclectic Scribe.
. . . and an interesting observation
This morning I received the third in a string of comments on my post, My Starfleet Education, that seem to be some form of spam or scam. All of these comments made brief and innocuous observations about the post and appeared to be from individuals, but when I clicked on the commenter’s name, instead of a person’s profile, I was in each case taken to a commercial website all wanting me to buy something. Now, nobody’s going to get rich advertising on this blog, and I’m not normally opposed to helping out a person selling a legitimate product, but the comment today repeated verbatim the first few lines of C.W. Hawes’s comment on the same post. Smelling the proverbial rat, I deleted all three of them as spam, and doing a little research, I found that this particular post has been picked up and repeated on several promotional sites, including Tygpress.com and Shadow.com. I’m not drawing any hard conclusions here, but if you’re running a blog, here’s one more thing to be aware of. Illegitimus non carborundum!
Interesting Books . . .
A Deadline Cozy Mystery series by Sonia Parin. The first 5 books in A Deadline Cozy Mystery series with Eve Lloyd, magnet for murder and mayhem. Book 1: Eve arrives on Rock-Maine Island. The idyllic island has been crime free . . . Until now. When her aunt goes missing and a body turns up in the kitchen, Eve becomes a murder suspect. Not the best start to her new life . . . Book 2: Eve tries to be nice to an artist. That doesn’t go too well, especially when the finger of suspicion is again pointed at her. Book 3: An old school nemesis tries to get married on the island – In the end she doesn’t (oops). Surely Eve doesn’t have anything to do with it . . . Book 4: Eve looks after a friend’s house. Right after she comes up with the bright idea of turning the house into an inn, she discovers a body in one of the rooms . . . Book 5: Eve’s on her way to set up an inn. She has her heart set on a fancy new stove. Instead, she gets another murder mystery. 99¢ on Kindle.
The Devil’s Spare Change by Samantha A. Cole. FBI agent Sean Malone’s homecoming is interrupted by two things—a pleasant surprise from his youth and a deranged serial killer. The little tomboy who’d followed him and his brothers around is now grown up and drop-dead gorgeous, and he finds himself thinking about her in ways he’d never done before. Whisper, North Carolina, where she’d spent her childhood summers, is the perfect place for Grace Whitman to open her new business—especially when she finds her adolescent crush has returned as well. As the two get to know each other all over again, local law enforcement asks Sean to help find the man who has tortured and killed three women. Will the killer follow his pattern and move on, or has Dare County become his permanent hunting ground? 99¢ on Kindle.
Hippies by Gary Gautier. By 1970, the hippie scene was faltering, a victim of both inner contradictions and external forces. The Vietnam war resistance, psychedelic drugs, sexual openness, the freedom of the commune – it seemed that everything about the 1960s could be incredibly liberating or wildly destructive. Against this backdrop, Jazmine, Ziggy, Ragman and a coterie of hippies discover an LSD-spinoff drug that triggers past life regressions as they head toward a dramatic climax. This epic tale of hippiedom is intimate in the lives of its characters but panoramic in its coverage of the sights, sounds, and ideals of the Age of Aquarius. Hippies is well-suited to readers of historical fiction, literary fiction, and anyone interested in the 1960s or the history of counter-cultural movements. $3.89 on Kindle.
Magic Show by Lawrence Michaelis. Gilbert Gilbertson, an inept magic clown whose biggest gigs are kids’ birthday parties, suddenly develops skills in sleight-of-hand and stage illusions that confound expert magicians. He also begins affecting people in strange ways, as well as winning staggering amounts of money in Las Vegas, which he donates to the Catholic Church. Jack Madison, an agnostic neurologist, debunker of miracles, and best-selling author, is asked to investigate the matter of Gilbert the Magic Clown. In pursuing the mystery, Jack becomes the unlikely partner of Joan Firestone, a beautiful Las Vegas detective and expert in casino fraud. “Michaelis’ tale is not only complex on many levels, but deftly written, topical, and exhilarating. Michaelis nicely paces both the unraveling mystery and developing love affair, delivering readers an engrossing tale. This intricate and entertaining tale should appeal to fans of The Da Vinci Code.” ~Kirkus Reviews. Enter a far-right fringe group within the Catholic Church, convinced that Gilbert is working legitimate miracles—miracles they believe will convince Catholics to return to more conservative ways. Jack and Joan land at the top of the group’s hit list as they try to figure out how Gil Gilbertson does what he does. Things culminate in the closing act of a Las Vegas magician’s convention when Gilbert performs what all agree is the greatest magic act of all time—a magic act that has unexpected and dire repercussions. $3.95 on Kindle.
Pendulum Heroes by James Beaman. Melvin Morrow has become a barbarian warrior maiden. Will he be able to escape this new, dangerous world and the chainmail bikini he foolishly chose as his armor or will he and his friends be stuck living their lives as their game avatars? Melvin’s a black teenage boy not used to being ogled or the real world consequences of wearing a steel bikini. But the real world has shifted . . . him, his friends Jason and Rich, and his big brother Mike are stuck in character, in a place where danger doesn’t lurk because it prefers to boldly stride out in the open. Mages import game players like Melvin via the Rift Pendulum. The reason: The work is suicidal and pendulum heroes are insanely powerful. Usually. Melvin and his friends can be, too, if they’re in the right emotional state to trigger into character. Melvin’s a one-man, uh, one warrior maiden army when he’s angry but anger’s hard to find with all that mortal danger striding around everywhere. It couldn’t get worse. Melvin’s best friend Jason isn’t even human and, thanks to this dangerous world and its axe-wielding inhabitants, quickly becomes not even an archer. His other friend Rich is 15 going on 50 now that he’s in an old mage’s body complete with untameable gray beard. Melvin’s brother Mike looks like a chupacabra and he’s really pissed about that. The road back home lies at the end of a suicidal quest. Melvin better find something to rage about . . . because being genre-savvy only gets you so far. Pendulum Heroes, James Beamon’s debut novel, is an adrenaline fueled adventure for anyone who’s spent a little too much time on the character creation screen instead of playing the game, those of us who have thought just how godmode we’d be with mage power, but mostly it’s for all of us who have wondered who the heck installs a portal to another world in a wardrobe. Check out what happens when The Wizard of Oz meets The Goonies at the crash site of a derailed RPG! $4.99 on Kindle.
The Invisible Mind by M.T. Bass. A police procedural sci-fi thriller ripped from future headlines! Now unleashed, the “Baron” is resurrecting history’s notorious serial killers, giving them a second life in the bodies of hacked and reprogrammed Personal Assistant Androids, then turning them loose to terrorize the city. While detectives Jake and Maddie of the police department’s Artificial Crimes Unit scramble to stop the carnage with the Baron’s arrest, the cyberpunk head of the Counter IT Section, Q, struggles to de-encrypt his mad scheme to infect world data centers with a virus that represents a collective cyber unconsciousness of evil. “It might not make sense, but the beloved Media tags it ‘Murder by Munchausen.’ For a price, there are hackers out there who will reprogram a synthoid to do your dirty work. The bad news: no fingerprints or DNA left at the crime scene. The good news—at least for us—is that they’re like missiles: once they hit their target, they’re usually as harmless as empty brass. The trick is to get them before they melt down their core OS data, so you can get the unit into forensics for analysis and, hopefully, an arrest.” [excerpt from Murder by Munchausen] Artificial Intelligence? Fuhgeddaboudit! Artificial Evil has a name . . . Munchausen. 99¢ on Kindle. Release Date is August 25, 2018
Interesting Reading . . .
Kaidi Wu and David Dunning, writing in Scientific American, explore an area of unknown unknowns (that is, in fact, the name of the article), the science of how not being aware that a concept exists limits your responses when you encounter it, and how the language you speak puts invisible boundaries on what you’re able to perceive. It is a fascinating article that I have to admit has put me a little on edge. I’ve always thought that as a writer I have a pretty good command of my language, but now I find that that may not even matter. Chilling, is what that is, and this is a good read that may at least widen your horizons in exchange for five minutes of your time.
Another name that turns up here frequently is that of Richie Billing. Richie is a very knowledgeable writer, admin of a group in which I hold membership, and a blogger of things literary. This latest installment of his blog contains a lengthy and well-reasoned dissertation on the subject of world building, so if you’re currently delving into that particular aspect of The Craft, a visit there might serve you well.
Troy Mitchell Scott, author of A Storm on Mars, operates a blog called Scott Writer in which he devotes many column-inches to movies and comics as well as books, and this week explores the proposed Star Wars series from Disney. Definitely worth a look if you’re into pop-culture media.
And that’s 30 for this week. I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride and that you’ll check out the links, and I really hope you’ll be back Thursday when I’ll be offering blurbs, pictures, and links to some interesting-looking books including my own.