Sunday, December 26, 2010

Character Lessons

Christmas brought to mind one of the messages of the person the holiday commemorates. It’s probably the one he stressed the most, both in words and actions, yet it seems to be the one most often overlooked by those who claim to follow him. How this relates to writing is as a character study in belief, ignorance, and stupidity.

Jesus stressed, after the obvious duty to God, that we are to love our neighbor. And not just in any way, but to the same degree that we love ourselves. And come on, we all know it is human nature to be self centered. While I think there are a handful of people since Jesus who have been able to put this in practice, (Mother Theresa is the only name that comes to mind as I write this), in general this very stressed and basic tenant of the Christian Faith is rarely practiced to the extent that it was intended.

First, I’d like to examine what this phrase means. Jesus did not just say these words, he lived them. When Jesus said love your neighbor, he meant everyone. While the religious leaders of the day kept themselves apart from the poor, the diseased, the criminal, Jesus was right there with them. He went to dinner or a party at Matthew’s house, who was then a tax collector. Today we don’t like the IRS. Back then a tax collector was a mix of an IRS agent and a mob stooge, collecting for his boss. He ministered to the poor, the lepers, the blind, women, and even to a few non-Jews. Who didn’t he minister to, the religious leaders.

Now we come to today. In place of this great love for the people of the world that Jesus showed, a love that is recorded in each of the four gospels and preached on occasion in pulpits all over the world, we have had a Christian world full of racism, oppression, divine right of kings, (and the list could go on and on) etc. So why do fo few Christians fail to hear these words and truly take them to heart? The answer to that lies in human nature. While we can be taught many things, we cannot be forced to believe in anything. Christians today should be supporting gay rights, supporting President Obama, striving for peace in the Middle East, and loving everyone in the world, especially and specifically including homosexuals and Muslims. Instead we get the harshest hatred of those two groups from the one group who is supposed to be loving them.

Jesus really didn’t give Christians much choice in the mater. First, God. Second, your neighbor. The implication was not your Christian neighbor, or you Jewish neighbor, but everyone, no matter who they are. Actually, when we look back, even the disciples could not agree on this. Some went out to minister to the gentiles, while some maintained Jesus’ message should only be for the Jews.

Human nature being what it is, people don’t listen to their teachers or parents. While sometimes you can point the finger at some little voice that gets to people instilling doubt, fear, etc. We have to accept that sometimes that little voice is one of our own. We hate to think that someone raised in a good environment could turn out bad, but they can. A hatred instilled in childhood, whether it be from parents, teachers, friends, bad experiences, or some strange not-yet-understood thought process, some people just turn out with that hatred in their hearts. And once it is there, there is no getting rid of it. That is why we like the story of Ebenezer Scrooge and his redemption. We like to hope that it can happen, and in rare cases it does. Usually not, but once in a great while.

It has been my experience that something held as a belief cannot be shaken. While occasionally a person may find a new belief and change their ways, typically a person never changes. Often, beliefs grow in ignorance of the source of societies teachings - what is learned is some interpretation and it unfortunately sticks. While to many of us this stubborn refusal to see the correct interpretation seems stupid, it really isn’t. It lies in the deep seated beliefs. This can hold true in any area, not just religion. Just get two physicist started on opposing theories and you will see that same level of heated debated you would between a Mormon and a Baptist. It is an unfortunate but true statement of human nature that belief trumps reason.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

How to Begin a Story

The conventional wisdom does not always hold true. We writers, when we are starting out, are told, in no uncertain terms, to get right to the story. But what is the story. To some, it is the action. That is not really the story. Stories are about people. That’s all. Just about people.

So where does this wisdom come form? I don’t know, but I’m guessing that it is from bored readers who need to be enticed into reading a book. I’m not sure that it does any good. It has not always been the case. I’ve read enough pre-twentieth century literature to know that a lot of the older writing does spend time getting to the meat of the story.

What brought this up is that I have noticed that a great many movies that I have watched in the last couple of years do NOT start with some action. The story starts with the characters. We get to know them, the setting, their joys and/or their sorrows, before the story really gets going. Now, not all movies start off this way, but a surprising number of them do. What is true for these movies, is that you get involved with the characters almost immediately. The characters are what draw you into the fictional tale.

Now to apply this to writing, it is not easy to craft interesting character interactions and to instantly make the characters breathe and come off the page and into the imagination of the reader. An action scene is much easier and gets right to the conflict. Of course a written story can take the time to go back and fill in the gaps as you go, but I think it relates back to writing ability.

When do you start your story? When you can draw the reader in, either through action or characterization. You have to have something that will catch the reader and make them turn the page. It does not have to start at that crucial moment when the heart of the story start, but when you have agents asking to read the first five to ten pages in the submission process, it does not enhance the craft of writing. It makes it very mechanical.

That’s not to say I have not succumbed to the trend to start with the beginning of the action. I have. I probably will continue. But that does not always have to be the case. If you have the skill to craft believable, likable, and three-dimensional characters and can catch the readers on page one when the meat of your story may start a chapter or two later, then trust the reader.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Writing in November

Ah! It is here again. National November Writing Month. This is my second year spending a month scribbling away. I’m not much for signing up for things so I do it unofficially. Last year I had a huge writing spurt in May and June and when I heard about NNWM, I realized that I had already achieved that speed wtih the volume I had done before. The other thing is that both last year and this year, I am not writing an entire novel in November. I am just working on my current one at that pace. Last year I started with 15,000 words and finished in December. This year I started with about 33,000 words and am hoping to finish, if not by the end of November, in very early December.

It is a challenge to keep up the pace. Last year I carefully tracked how I was doing. This year, I have the figures and I could track it, but the only thing I am worried about is staying ahead of the goal. For the first week I was behind. Then I caught up and I’m trying to stay caught up. My goal to beat is 53,000 words, my accomplishment for November 2009.

In thinking about NNWM this year, I realized that whoever decided on November was not nice. In the middle have a major holiday, at least for us Americans. And not just any holiday, but a big eating and shopping holiday (read into that time consuming). This is the perfect time of year, but it’s also the time of year when holidays and travel can get in the way. Fortunatly for me, this year is quiet so it looks like I can get my quota of writing done on each of those days.

So for any who are joining me is the quest for 50,000 or more words in November, good luck. For friends and family of NNWM writers, be patient and understanding.

Friday, October 8, 2010

It’s Finished... NOT

So the manuscript is finally finished. It is edited and polished and is a gem waiting to be revealed. The writer sits back, satisfied at the accomplishment. What’s next? Answer, the real work. It’s time for the manuscript to find its way to a publisher.

Writing a book is only half the work. The next step is to sell. Some authors go direct to a publisher, some go through an agent. New authors face the same difficulty either way. First step is the query and the first thing needed to send out a query is the query letter. Sounds simple doesn’t it? But it isn’t.

Writing a query letter takes almost as much time and effort as writing and editing the novel. You have to compress your story down to about 200 words. Unless you started with a 200 word story summary and followed it to the letter, you have to write this after the novel is complete. Taking a complex novel of 80,000 words or more and compressing it to 1/400th it’s original length while maintaining your voice and style takes rewrite after rewrite. And while you’re at it you might want to create a 800 word synopsis, some agents and publishers ask for one.

Okay, so you go through that hell and have the materials, next you need to find out who to send it to. First it takes research. There are various sites online and book with lists of publishers and agents to help you out. But each one selected has to then be separately researched to find out your novel is right for them. No point in sending a mystery novel to an agent who only deals in romance.

Then there is the waiting. Now if you are submitting to a publisher, chances are you have to query them one at a time. For some reason most of them are grumpy about simultaneous submissions. Don’t argue with them, just follow what they say. Agents, on the other hand, aren’t so grumpy about it, probably because there are more of them. You can send them out in batches, maybe 10 or 20 at a time, you don’t want to loose track. But in any case, you wait until you get a reply, which is probably a rejection. Then you send out another. Repeat this (inserting partial and full requests) until someone finally says yes.

The long road to getting published starts when the manuscript is finished.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Data Preservation

So I nearly had a disaster this weekend. I worked all Saturday morning and churned out 1600 words and saved it. Then as I was copying it something went horribly wrong and it vanished. I won't get into the details, but I was fortunate that I knew what I needed and was able to find the software and make it work and I was able to recover my file.

The whole situation brings to mind the need to preserve your data. In this electronic world you need to make multiple copies of your files. Most importantly, you need copy that is not inside your house. I keep my writing in three locations. I use my PDA to transport my files and I write at home and at work, so the three locations are my work PC, my home PC, and my PDA.

Probably the most ironic thing that could happen just happened. While I was finishing the above paragraph, my software crashed. I quickly opened wordpad and retyped the paragraphs before letting the software close.

That brings me to another important backup - paper. Always keep a paper copy of your writing. Regardless of computer file formats, technology, or anything else, good paper will last for a hundred years. Paper doesn’t like water or fire, but neither do computers.

Redundancy is the key to keeping your data from being lost. I keep my writing (in electronic form) with me, at home, at work, and at home on paper. You will know what works best for you, but when you lose a chapter or an entire story, you will be grateful you have a backup copy.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

When Writing Takes a Backseat

There are a million things in a writer’s life that can interfere with what we consider our main job - writing. Sometimes those other things cannot be ignored, or ignoring them comes with a price too high. For those of us still dependant on a paycheck from our day job, the demands of that day job and put a crimp in our writing.

So it is that such a time has arrived in my day job. The busiest two weeks of the year have hit and this blog entry is the first writing I’ve done in six days (since a very profitable morning last Sunday). And it looks to be another week before I will have a chance to write again. It’s a hard thing, especially since I’m just getting a good start on my next project. But it can’t be helped. It’s either work and eat and have a place to live or write and be homeless. And I do consider myself lucky that it is only this one time of year when I loose almost two whole weeks (not just of writing, but of everything) to my job while the rest of the year it is the other million minus one things that interfere.

But it makes me thing about priorities. While writing is a job that many of us want to make a living at, there are things in life that are more important at any given time and we need to prioritize to make sure that we don’t alienate our loved ones or risk our existing livelihood while at the same time, we have to write and push forward. It is a challenging balancing act, but one that must be done.

For myself, there are not many things that I will let writing take a backseat to. My job, my spouse, my friends, etc. take precedence, but that does not require my every waking moment. I have found two things that let me balance things out. First, I give up some time in front of the keyboard as needed. I like my life and I don’t want certain things to change so I make the effort. Second, there is more to writing that typing out the words. There are things to work on in your head and that is something you can do almost any time. I use every opportunity when I am not actively engaged to think on my current and future projects. Those boring tasks at work can come alive when you hit on a wonderful idea for your next chapter or next book that can occupy your imagination.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Going Back, Going Forward

We writers live in a strange world of fantasy. We create stories. Sometimes there is truth in them, even if it is just a grain, but in all cases (except memoirs, maybe) we were not there and have to imagine what it was or would be like. We can travel through time and space and go anywhere, be anyone, and do anything through our writing.

But in another sense, we are always going back and forward constantly just by the nature of writing. We go forward and write a story, then we have to go back and edit said story, probably multiple times. For those of us who write series, that could mean that in our new writing we my be following a character who is ten years more mature and then have to go back and do another round of editing (probably thanks to an agent or publisher) and revisit their youth. We may have to rewrite an entire scene and we have to do it consistent with that character at that time. Then we have to return to the current project and resume writing the older version of the character.

It is a never ending ebb and flow of where and when we are with our writing. Quite a challenge. As a writer, I find it fun to be able to jump back and forth and if I wrote something I didn’t like, I can change it. I can rewrite history for my characters, sometimes by changing just a few words. But while we have the power to go back and fix things and change things (and write prequels), it is going forward that is the writers greatest power and joy. What is the next project? Who will I write about this time? Going forward is the creation of new material, new adventures. Going forward is what we live for. It is why we write.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Where Do Ideas Come From?

The origin of ideas is hard to pin down. It is one of those wispy things that most writers can’t explain. I don’t claim I am any better, but I can explain the source of some of my ideas and explain how the idea developed. As to how I knew that was a good idea... that’s part of the wispiness.

The first story I wrote (that I’d still let anyone read) where I was the master of every aspect was set in 2000 in Nebraska. It is the story of a small town family. The father is a Vietnam Vet, the mother a Japanese woman he met in California. The father is dying and the story is how his youngest daughter deals with it. This may sound somewhat original, but the basic family setup is one from my own family history. That youngest daughter, if the year were 1900, would be my great-grandmother. But I’ve changed almost every aspect to fit with the setting I wanted. So that’s the secret of that story, a family story reset with the characters fleshed out to match the setting. I still get good remarks from people who read it, though I do warn them to have a box of kleenex handy.

My Science Fiction writing was born at a desk where I received deliveries. I have no doubt that the source of some of my SF universe that sprang up around my characters came from the drivers I encountered on an almost daily basis. While I know that some of my early scenes were inspired by Han Solo, that quickly dropped away and left a more real, gritty image in my head of the world of space traders that I’d begun writing about. Out went the glamour and in came the drudgery, the paperwork, the day to day hassle of such a job. I drew conflict from an idea that had been stirring in my head since I’d read a novel and not liked one part of it. My interest in history added texture by imagining a world that had been there for a long time and I did my best to convey that. My first foray into this future galactic civilization will remain in the dusty files, but since then I have voyaged with other characters and created an even broader picture of the world I created. It is pieced together from many ideas and it is the union of these different pieces that makes the setting unique and gives me ideas for the stories to tell. Oddly, that same job that inspired the first story and the setting, inspired my third novel.

I get many of my ideas from life, but sometimes the idea only comes with lots of thought. I have considered writing a Fantasy novel for a long time. Even before I truly started writing, I had a setting in mind, complete with characters and general plot, but I have yet to write a single paragraph. What finally drew me to fantasy I cannot quite pin down, other than I had an idea and it had to be written (most writers will know about such ideas that won’t stay in their head or remain merely notes on a page). It started with the question of what I could write about that would be different and unusual. So much of Fantasy is filled with European-based folklore and I didn’t want to do anything like that. Instead my mind turned to Asia. I drew on Japanese folklore and some Chinese as well. But that wasn’t unique enough. I had to have some other idea. Then I hit on it, something very unusual. One protagonist would be somewhat of a cliche, a Canadian farm boy. But the other would be the most unusual person to counter that cliche, an Asian Muslim girl. When I put those pieces together, I just had to start writing.

Another idea I have (but yet to be written) involves a cat, a dragon painting, a deck of cards, and a music video. Ideas can come from anywhere. I’m always on the lookout for them, but often all I get is a snippet, not enough to form the whole idea. But if you can match the pieces into something that inspires your imagination (and more importantly, engages your readers), than you have something. And the funny thing about being a writer is that no matter how experienced a writer is, they can still get an idea that fails to live up to what they see in it.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Realistic Conflict

Conflict in life comes from a variety of sources. So too, should conflict in writing. Some of the many types are represented by bullying, misunderstanding, and stubbornness. I’d include all the super evil bad guys, like Tolkien’s Sauron, under bullies. That one is pretty straight forward. It is the other two I want to cover right now.

Comedy often makes use of misunderstanding. One person says something and another person takes it, either out of context, or in a way the speaker did not intend. The result is the same, conflict born out of a lack of understanding. I have noticed some writers, particularly for sitcoms, take this to an extreme that becomes unrealistic, even for comedy. You can’t always rely on the same type of conflict for every situation. It’s great for one-line jokes or to create the main conflict, but to do it again and again get boring and isn’t what happens in reality.

While it is true that as writers, we aren’t creating reality with our words, we do have to create the illusion of reality - that these are people our readers can understand and relate to. Without that illusion, we won’t hold their attention. So all aspects of our story, weather grounded in reality or fantasy, need to have the illusion of reality. That include the series of problems we beset our characters with.

I’ve found stubbornness to be an equally normal source of conflict. For example, religious beliefs fall in this category. A religious person will hold to their beliefs regardless, in stubborn adherence to their faith. Similarly, a politician will hold to their political beliefs. Put two such people together with very opposite ideas that they will stubbornly hold to and you have an endless source of conflict.

The best written novels have one major source of conflict (like the Tolkien example from above) and a variety of other conflicts to bounce the characters around as they work to overcome the major conflict. Some novels use a series of smaller conflicts that build to the big climax. The not so good novels use a series of smaller conflicts that only serve as episodes to frustrate the characters and bring drama to the story, without forwarding to the main climax of the story. Soap Operas are famous for these strings of small conflicts.

Let's look at Gone With the Wind, at first glance, it might seem to be a Soap Opera. But it isn't. Although there are constant episodes that set Scarlett back, there is one overriding thing that lies behind every scene - a girl growing up. One by one, her childish ideas are removed, not always in time. Each conflict she faces whittles away her fantasies. The conflicts she faces are of all types. Her stubbornness causes many, misunderstanding abound, she faces danger from soldiers, starvation, troubles she causes herself, troubles she tried to avoid. While it is quite a list of conflicts she faces, it is an every changing landscape of conflict that rings true for her time and place. That is the key to good fiction, that your conflicts ring true for your setting.

And that is where the issue lies. They always say to write about what you know, but to be realistic, you have expand your horizons and be able to write from perspectives that aren’t yours. You can’t rely on stubborn characters just because you are. You have to expand. Not that you, the writer, have to change your beliefs, but you have to write characters that realistically differ from your beliefs. It is one of the skills to learn to take your writing to the next level. Many writers make a good living writing about the same types of characters and conflicts over and over, but the best writers can delve into a multitude of different characters and conflicts, a talent that adds rich realism to their writing.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Death and Life

I found out this week that a small town Newspaper Editor I knew passed away. He called himself the Old Editor. He will be missed. It is a reminder of all the areas writers occupy and how they spend their creative energy.

There are writers such as Isaac Asimov who are prolific and famous. Not quite everyone knows their name, but their volume of work will not soon be forgotten. Then there are writers like the Old Editor who plug away week after week with their short editorials. They have a large volume of work, but few ever see it. Two figures to admire, both now sadly gone.

On the other hand, the profession of writing sees constant renewal. While some leave our number, it is ever replenishing. There are always new writers growing up and adding themselves to our numbers. Their work has far to go compared to those they replace, but they’ll get there if their determination carries them that far.

Renewal, something we write about, is integral to our profession. While death claims all of us eventually, before then we have a life to live and things to write about. Some will write the next best seller, some will write that daily editorial. Each one of us who finds and niche and plugs away at it is an important writer and should be remembered as such. So while I say goodbye to the Old Editor, important to his corner of the world, I think that somewhere out there, another writer is starting a similar role, maybe not knowing how important it can be.

In the end, whether new or old, famous or obscure, we writers fill many niches, often unnoticed, but always important.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Names and Unintended Humor

As an author of speculative fiction, I create lots of names. Create is not always accurate, sometimes I find them. One thing I have learned, both from the names I find and create and from other languages I have had contact with, is that you have to be careful that you don’t give a character an unintentionally funny name.

Even with real world names you can run into trouble. At my day job, name after name passes my eyes from all sorts of ethnicities. Some turn out to be quite amusing. Some of the most amusing are what parents do to their children or what people do to themselves. I can think of one woman in particular who decided to hyphenate her name with her husbands. The unwitting result is a name that to those with minds in the gutter (and this author admits to finding his there frequently) is great sport. I’m afraid I can’t provide the exact one I have encountered, but there is a close second that came to my creative mind - Melinda Wang-Carr - that should give you some idea.

And parents can be far worse to their children. I have encountered names that make me wonder what chemicals their parents were on when they came up with the name. I’m sure everyone knows what I am talking about. I have seen the silly, the ridiculous, the off color, and the simply embarrassing names so often I have lost count.

Then there are linguistically funny names. We English speakers find them in what some call ethnic names, but speakers of other languages can often find them in ours. One that stands out is the name of a car dealership in the Denver metro area. Kuni Lexus sound innocuous, but to speakers of Pashto (which includes parts of both Pakistan and Afghanistan), it sounds really, really bad. Not a name you would buy a car from. So if your target is going to be an ethnicity that you do not belong to, you need to be careful that the names you use, for all your characters, don’t have any unintended meanings.

As a writer, I strive to avoid landing my characters in this situation. Having a mind that frequents the gutter makes filtering the names I create easier. But there are also cases when a writer may want a name that does has a humorous connotation. These are either crafted and subtle or blatant and obvious depending on the purpose and comedy level desired. It can be done very effectively. I’m of the opinion that unless you are going for the laugh factor in a name that it is best to shy away from anything that can be taken in an unintendedly humorous way that might detract from the story.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Seeking Criticism

One of the duties that comes with being a writer is to seek out criticism. But there is an art to where you seek it and how you let it affect you.

Without knowing what we are doing wrong, writers can’t grow and improve. It is vital that we put out our work to be cut apart by our fellow writers, critics, agents, and publishers. It is only by learning from our mistakes that we can improve.

The problems lies in style. No two people really have or like or understand the same style. That is important to distinguish because if you just blindly take all criticism, your style will end up mimicking your critics and that takes away your own style. What you have to do is put on a style filter. You filter out all their comments that don’t match your style and take what is left. That is what they have for you. Sometimes that may be nothing and other times it could still be a lot. And don’t forget that part of style relates to your genre. Not everyone is cut out to write in every genre, or critique in every genre, but they try anyway. Make sure you build that into your style filter on a project by project basis.

Another area to consider is the critic’s qualifications. Are they a successful published author, writing teacher, or trained professional, or are they an amateur. Not that any of those is an automatic disqualifier, but it is something to consider. If your critic gives you advice but doesn’t know what they are talking about, how does that help you? It doesn’t. It can be very detrimental. You need strong advice from someone who knows what they are talking about. Now this could be your grandmother who is an avid reader and she knows plots and characters and is willing to put aside the role of grandmother while she reads and be as critical of your writing as she is of anyone else’s. Relatives do not often make the best test readers because they often are under or overly critical and will give you the wrong impression. Most relatives are not qualified to critic your writing, but sometimes there are few others. Take Jane Austen. Her family were her early critics and when she made it to print what appeared was truly exceptional.

The harshest critic, if you filter out for style and qualifications, probably has something of value to offer. You just have to work to see it. Weigh all your critiques take the good and bad that truly applies to you.

This does not give you leave to omit everything you don’t like. You need to weigh what everyone says and the more times you get a comment, the more likely it is that you need to look at it and take heed. You have to be accepting of harsh criticism if you are to improve and that is the goal, to improve your writing. Don’t bury your head in the sand and ignore the flaws that get revealed. You need to be brave and take what is offered and make use of it. Time has been spent reading and commenting on your writing, don’t waste other people’s time by discounting it because you don’t like it.

You can never really ignore critiques. If you become a successful published/produced writer, it can go to your head. You still need to take criticism and apply it, not matter how successful you get. Just the more successful you get, the more qualified your critics need to be in order for them to provide something useful. But at that point there is another group to consider, your fans. Among your fans may be some long time experienced readers. They know what they like and they can tell when you stray. They will let you know. Give them heed for they are your bread and butter, the reason you write. Established writers often let their success go to their head and rather than improve or even remain consistent, they digress and their writing turns to rubbish. None of us really want that to happen to us.

To recap. You need to have critical comments on your writing to improve and then to stay good. You need to filter those comments based on a variety of variables so that what you get really applies to your writing and will help you and ignore the rest. Don’t take offence and don’t waste their time, use what they offer as it applies to you and you will get better and better and once you have an audience, you will keep that audience.

Not all critiques are made equal and if you can filter them in this manner, you will have what you need from them without being overly offended by comments that really don’t apply. I hope you can see through my ramblings to what I was trying to say.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A beginning

Where to begin a blog? That is a good question. I’m not much of a blogger. I prefer to write prose or to interact with other people. Unfortunately blogs tend to show the worst side of my writing because they are written quick and dumped out to the net. My appologies if my short comings, which I normally edit out of my writing, show through.

You’d think, with four generations of journalists in the family, that some inkling of talent at that type of writing would show up in me, but I’ve never seen it. When I write fiction, I can get in place where the words flow and the characters interact almost on their own. When I write on a more journalistic bent, such as will be found in this blog, I feel awkward and clumsy.

In any case, this blog isn’t about being the perfect blogger, it is about my fiction writing. First some background. I grew up in the 70's and was greatly impacted by Star Wars and a host of late 70's media. The result of which is me ending up with the tools to forge strong fictional stories. In other words, I’m good at making things up and going with the flow to a logical conclusion. It also means I’m really into Science Fiction and Fantasy. I started reading early. In my assessment test in fifth grade, I had an eleventh grade reading level. I devoured Mysteries at first, and then Science Fiction. I came to Fantasy late and I started with Terry Brooks.

But I also love history. I still have this set of history books from my childhood that I poured over. My grandmother, having been a journalist and an amateur history writer, shared that love of history with me and in addition to my many fictional interests, I have delved back through time. The end result is that I know what it takes to research a past setting as well as I know how to create a future or magical setting.

My writing started out as what would now be called fan fiction. It probably was called that back then too, but I didn’t know that. I’d take one of my favorite Science Fiction settings and characters, and I’d build a story around my own guest characters. Basically I hijacked these other worlds to tell my own stories. I did the same thing with Star Trek: The Next Generation, but I went one better, I made a script and submitted it. It got rejected so I tried again. Instead of molding their setting around my story, I made sure to just insert my characters into their setting. I crafted an excellent work... but I used one of their recurring guest characters which earned me an automatic rejection. C’est la vie!

I let writing go for a long time after that. Too long. I found an outlet for my love of characters and settings in role playing, but it just wasn’t enough. Having been in the mode of scripts, my next writing project was a movie script. It took place in the here and now without a wisp of magic or science. I quickly followed with a romantic comedy because I understood those were more marketable. They booth gather electronic dust on my hard drive.

In 2001, while I was at work, an idea came to me. It resulted in a string of words that reached 95,000 and became my first novel. It has its issues so it also is gathering electronic dust, but it opened the door to a series of Science Fiction novels. Not knowing when I might write one worthy of selling, the series is episodic so that each one stands on its own. The second in the series was interrupted by an idea for a Fantasy novel. That has probably been my best work yet I am currently shopping for an agent as I prepare to write two more novels, one another in my Science Fiction series, and the other will explore my interest in history, covering a good deal of the twentieth century.