Wednesday, November 23, 2016

CHALLENGE YOURSELF!




A question recently asked by N. R. Williams' in a recent blog post. I thought I would answer it here, and not just because I won a place in the Parallels: Felix Was Here Anthology, but because I co-host a writing challenge called Write…Edit…Publish Blog Post, with Denise Covey. 

The WEP is a flash fiction challenge open to all writers, and we work hard to come up with a schedule of contests that offer just that, an opportunity for participants to try something new.

When most of us start out, we choose a genre and concentrate our efforts in that arena. My first choice was mystery. I thought mysteries would be my main calling, but then I found the need to branch out and found writing contests the solution.

Each writing challenge is an opportunity, not only for expression but it's a chance to learn and open yourself to other possibilities. You'll not only stretch your imagination but you'll meet a new network of people. Writers helping other writers is the key to success and, yes, even that necessary evil of marketing becomes easier as you introduce yourself to new readers via a new genre.

Have you tested the waters - tried a new genre?

Did you submit to the IWSG Anthlogoy?

Or do you limit yourself, convinced you can only 'write what you know'?

Jump in and open yourself to creativity.

Challenge yourself!

You will never, ever regret it!

To help you consider a different genre
here's a list of the tips or essentials for writing

Science Fiction, Romance, Horror or Scary,
Mysteries and Fantasy.



 1.   Science fiction is often based on scientific principles and technology.

2.   Science fiction may make predictions about life in the future.

3.   Science fiction often deals with aliens or with life on other worlds.

4.   Science fiction can comment on important issues in society.



  1.   A hero and a heroine to fall in love

  2.   A problem that creates conflict and tension between them and threatens to keep them apart

  3.   A developing love that is so special it comes about only once in a lifetime

  4.   A resolution in which the problem is solved and the couple is united.





**

(last month's Parallels post by Crystal Collier)

1.  The setting: your word choices and imagery should depict an ambiance that sets our nerves on end.
2.  A protagonist you like: a likable character builds the tension. 
3.  Foreshadowing: give hints, snippets that tell us something sinister is coming
4.  Building tension: up the stakes with things that really matter (like people's lives). 
5.  Surprise: that twist that changes the entire story.

**

1.   Characters that are engaging entertaining, and possibly, seem as though they could be the villain. 

    2.   An Intriguing Plot: a ‘hook’ that gains the reader’s interest and pulls them along with the story.

    3.  Clues and red herrings to keep the reader guessing.

    4.   Action and adventure to keep the story moving.

    5.   A healthy dose of suspense that allows the reader to connect more with the characters.



**

1.   Plot: almost always a natural serial sequence i.e. a hero’s journey of separation, quest, and reconciliation/salvation.

2.   Action: often based on traditional roles and archetypes rather than on personal.

3.   Setting: often medieval or magical, but can be urban or modern and often emblematic and symbolic rather than literal.

4.   Characters: wizards, witches, elves, fairies, gnomes, dwarves, goblins, trolls, sprites, angels, and devils, etc. or humans with their traits.

***

Also, Christine Rains recently posted a blog on the 5 Reasons to Write Paranormal. Check it out HERE!


If one of these is your genre - what characteristic  do you feel is most important to make it work?

Tell us your genre, and if you haven't yet attempted a new one - if and when you do, what would it be?

For more information on each subject, just click the title.

FYI!
In my story for Parallels, Ever-Ton, 
global warming was a real thing.

IT IS a real thing.






Wednesday, October 26, 2016

What is Scary? 5 Tips for Creating Scary Stories


I was recently asked a funny question: do you write scary stuff?

Well, I don't think so, but some people do. A reader recently told me that she had to put my debut novel (MOONLESS) down because of a scene 5 chapters in. I had to take another look. Maybe I do write tense, if not terrifying things.

I really didn't intend to make my entry for the Parallels anthology scary, but when I typed that first line: "Every day I look into the eyes of a stone cold killer", I knew I had to go with it. What kind of bizarre story was spilling onto the page? And yes, it's intense, but like all emotions, you can't experience one extreme without experiencing the other.

An extreme scare=an extreme relief.


The same is true with my Maiden of Time series. There are creatures one might call a cross between a dementor, vampire, and werewolf. Just perfect for Halloween. They're coming out to play in the final book, TIMELESS, releasing November 1. (Shameless plug there.)

So what is it that makes a story "scary?" And how do we implement the scare?

1. The setting:

The word choices and imagery depict an ambiance that sets our nerves on end. One scene in Moonless takes place in a 17th century cellar at midnight. A "dead girl" is found hanging from the rafters on chains. (She's not really dead, but that's another discussion for another day.) The setting builds on the shadows, the lack of light, the chill in the air, the flicker of a nearly-dead candle, the dead silence, and the bleeding red skirts of the hanging girl. Did you get all those details there? Full sensory experience based on what we perceive as terrifying--and that's the scene that robbed me of a reader. *sigh*

2. A protagonist you like:

If you sincerely care about a character, you don't want to see them step into the attic and get hacked to pieces by an ax murderer. A likable character builds the tension. That was the case with Jak from The Mirror People. I had to tell his story because I had to know that this sincerely good guy would somehow overcome the monster on the other side of the glass.

3. Foreshadowing:

We get hints, snippets that tell us something sinister is coming. A shadow on the wall. A scuttling and closing door. A bizarre taste on the wind... These prepare the mind and build anticipation for a future payout. This is one of my favorite tools--especially when it comes to planting red herrings so the reader is caught unawares.

4. Building tension: 

The stakes are upped. Things that really matter (like people's lives) are jeopardized. We take it to the next level by throwing something new into the fire. In Timeless, Alexia is already battling the Knights Templar to keep her people alive, and then mysterious murders start happening in her camp. Suddenly there is no safe haven.

5. Surprise:

This is the best part of a scary story in my opinion--that thing jumping out that you didn't expect. That twist that changed the entire story for you. Surprises are a must.


If you can pull off the tension and bring your readers to that place of relief, you've got them for life. Go forth and scare!

What's your favorite scary story or movie?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

At the Heart of What If?

by Alex J. Cavanaugh 

Parallel universes explore the what if – what if one or more elements was different that our own world. But if you think about it, all speculative fiction is about the what if. It’s exploring a place unlike our own, transporting the reader to a world of possibilities.

This type of writing appeals to both writer and reader on many levels.

For the writer:

Fun to brainstorm. We can just start listing all sorts of crazy what ifs.

No limits. This is about things that aren’t real. Not yet and maybe never. We can go as far as we envision.

We become Creator. All writers do, but we can take it a step farther with a whole new world.

For the reader:

The chance to escape reality. When the news and troubles of the world overwhelm, nothing is more satisfying than retreating away from reality.

Struggles easier to handle. The troubles of this world can overwhelm us. But present those same struggles in a speculative fiction setting, and they are easier to handle and understand. We can process them better.

Encourages imagination. The same imagination that created the story flows into the reader and he envisions the world beyond the book. He’ll create his own stories.

What if takes us to a place beyond this world. And that’s a good thing. After all, all of the advancements and inventions of this world came from that simple question – what if?

Alex J. Cavanaugh
- Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design, graphics, and technical editing. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. He’s the author of Amazon Best-Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, CassaStorm, and Dragon of the Stars. The author lives in the Carolinas with his wife.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Science Fiction, Science Future


- by Sylvia Ney

One of my favorite stops this summer was at the Reuben H. Fleet museum in San Diego, California. I took my daughters to the traveling exhibit "Science Fiction, Science Future".

We spent the day learning about what has led to our current understanding of science, what humans are currently working to develop, and being teased with challenges for the future. Gallery stops included:

- understanding what we know of sound and light
- move this object with your mind challenge
- become invisible
- design your own cyborg
- interact with robots
- and more than I can write about in one post!

Here are just a few of our explorations:

A section honoring the history of science fiction development - its authors, artists, and innovators. Rare books from the Department of Special Collections & University Archives (SCUA), artwork from comic book publisher IDW, and even displays from the Star Trek franchise were available for perusal - including a very special challenge (see pics below).











Created by the renowned Scitech Discovery Centre in Perth, Australia this exhibit is a visually compelling way to share a deeper understanding of how science fiction concepts of today are becoming a reality: including holograms.

Visitors are completely immersed in possibilities for medical technology, communication, and even transportation. This exhibit includes many innovations, inventions, and challenges -  a taste of anything a science lover could be looking for, especially when sharing the concepts with family and friends.

Thanks to this trip, my daughters truly enjoyed a glimpse at the possibilities for themselves and their future. I can't wait to see how they will contribute.

How will you contribute to our science fiction, science future? Will you or someone you know want to compete in the tricorder challenge listed in the above picture?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What would YOU build in your alternate universe?





What Would YOU Build in Your Alternate Universe?


I love alternate universes.  There are so many things we have no control over in our own lives: life, death, taxes, illness, family, nature.  There are of course things we can control, but somewhere along the line, unforeseen circumstances set in and remind us of just how small we are in the scheme of things.  That is what is so great about creating an alternator universe.  Your world can be exactly as you choose it to be.
One of the things that really bother me—and probably you—is the politics and violence that are tearing our country apart.  I firmly believe that it is the inability of our representatives to reach across the table and say, “I don’t agree with you, but I’m willing to meet you halfway,” that keeps our country in total turmoil.  Today’s mentality in congress seems to be my way or the highway.
Why am I mentioning this in a post about alternate universes? Because it was important enough to me to build it into my new world.  In RAINERS, when Harper Reese tumbles into a world different, but similar to her own, she discovers that like the United States there is a President and Vice-President, but unlike her own, one is a liberal and the other a conservative.  It had no specific bearing on my storyline, but something that I wanted in my universe.
What about you?  If you are building an alternate universe, what would you put into it? Unaltered rain forests? Purple dogs? A society that has eliminated hunger and disease?  This world is your oyster, you can build it anyway you want. I’d love to hear what would be important enough to place in yours.

RAINERS:


Tagline: Save his world or save her own.
Blurb: Out hiking, Harper Reese tumbles into a parallel universe where a nightmarish virus has infected the sphere’s pubescent children. While there she encounters bad boy Noah Tanner who’s got problems of his own. Now, they must work together to track down and destroy the source of the disease before it travels to her world and infects her twelve-year-old sister.

Bio: Multi-published author Sandra Cox writes YA Fantasy, Romance, and Metaphysical Nonfiction. She lives in sunny North Carolina with her husband, a brood of critters and an occasional foster cat. Although shopping is high on the list, her greatest pleasure is sitting on her screened in porch, listening to the birds, sipping coffee and enjoying a good book. She's a vegetarian and a Muay Thai enthusiast.

Enter the realm of parallel universes!

What if the government tried to create the perfect utopia? Could a society linked to a supercomputer survive on its own? Do our reflections control secret lives on the other side of the mirror? Can one moment split a person’s world forever?

Exploring the fantastic, ten authors offer incredible visions and captivating tales of diverse reality. Featuring the talents of L. G. Keltner, Crystal Collier, Hart Johnson, Cherie Reich, Sandra Cox, Yolanda Renee, Melanie Schulz, Sylvia Ney, Michael Abayomi, and Tamara Narayan.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents and authors, these ten tales will expand your imagination and twist the tropes of science fiction. Step through the portal and enter another dimension!

Release date: May 3, 2016
$14.95 USA, 6x9 Trade paperback, 218 pages, Freedom Fox Press
Science Fiction/General ( FIC028000) and Fiction/Alternative History (FIC040000 )
Print ISBN 978-1-939844-19-4 eBook ISBN 978-1-939844-20-0
Order through Ingram, Follett Library Resources, or from the publisher
$4.99 EBook available in all formats

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Trends in Science Fiction

Since the time when science fiction appeared on the scene in the late 1800’s, it has helped those who read it look at the world in a different way.  Science fiction understandably speculated about what the future might look like thanks to science and advancing technologies.  Yet, like every other genre you can think of, it has gone through many trends.

The history of science fiction is often divided into eras.  Though stories of various kinds were published during each of these eras, there is a definite trend in the kinds of stories published during each era.  The pulp era of the 1920’s and 30’s was characterized by cheaply produced magazines that could provide affordable entertainment for working class people.  They featured heroes who had bold adventures on other planets.  The heroes were often dashing and charming and the kind of person people wished they could be.


During the late 1930’s and 1940’s, wartime shortages brought on the decline of the pulp magazines, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction began.  This golden age featured hard sci-fi (sci-fi that features science in a prominent and accurate way).

Later on in the 1960’s and 70’s, the New Wave came as a response to the social issues of the time.  The focus moved from hard to soft science fiction.  Soft sci-fi is less focused on the technology and more focused on the people and how they respond to the world in which they live.  This era also saw a lot of experimentation with writing styles.

Cyberpunk rose to popularity in the 1980’s as the computer became more accessible to everyday people.  The stories took place on Earth and featured people who interacted heavily with technology.  Sometimes the characters plugged in and escaped the dystopian world around them through the more appealing world the technology offered.  Other times the characters interacted with cyborgs that made people question what it means to be human.

The trends we see in various genres don’t spring up in a vacuum.  All of these eras arose in response to the world the authors of these stories lived in.  Writers look at their own world and use their writing to respond to it.  They may also read stories from fellow authors and draw inspiration for their own work.

One of the biggest trends today in science fiction is YA dystopian.  There has been plenty of dystopian fiction over the years, but most of it today seems to be post-apocalyptic.  It features protagonists that have to contend with tyrannical governments that were established after some major disaster destroyed much of the world and killed a majority of humanity.  The cause of the apocalypse is typically environmental in nature, and what remained of humanity had to fight for what little resources were left.  Why is this such a prominent theme today?

The future of our planet is a big concern for many people.  Is global warming a valid concern, and if so, what are the consequences?  Can our growing population be sustained without catastrophe?  People also worry about overbearing governments monitoring their every move, which is a common concern in the world we live in today.  These post-apocalyptic scenarios look at the social impact of living in a world that looks drastically different than the one we live in today, and we get to root for protagonists who are fighting against governments that abuse the people they rule.  We like see people like us triumph against all odds.

One question that often comes up with trends is this: does the market become too saturated with similar stories?  Do readers get sick of reading the same themes over and over again?  If you’re a writer, should you write a story that fits within the prevailing trend of the time, or should you try to write something else?  Does a story that falls outside of what is currently considered popular even have a chance?


There are no easy answers to these questions.  Some readers will reach a point of burn out, while others will continue to scoop up all the books they can because they love what these kinds of stories have to offer.  As a writer, I know we can’t please everyone with what we have to offer.  That’s just not possible.  If you have the inspiration to write a story and you’re passionate about it, but you fear that the market has too many stories with similar themes, I’d recommend you try writing it anyway.  Try to give it a twist or look at events from an angle that you haven’t seen yet.  Create the strongest characters you can.  If you give the story everything you have, you have a shot at finding readers for your work.

If your story is something that doesn’t fit within the current trend at all, I’d also recommend giving it a chance.  The most important thing is to tell a compelling story.

Remember, stories that fit within the current trend do so because they are compelling to a lot of people, but someone also had to start writing many of those stories before the trend existed.  Someone had to start that trend in the first place.  That’s why I try not to worry too much about whether a story idea seems trendy or not.  If the idea speaks to me, I try to make it happen.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

FUTURE PLANS

Hey, friends, yes the book is out, the reviews are coming in, and we thank you for your kindness in posting them. If you any of you are still interested in a review copy, please let us know.

We apologize for the long silence, the A to Z knocked a few of us out, but we've come up with a blogging schedule we hope you'll support. I've listed it below. We'll post a for sure once a month article on the 4th Wednesday of each month. A day you can count on, but also, look for blog hops, contests, and giveaways!

If you'd like to be a guest, or know of someone who would please send them our way, we'd love to feature other speculative fiction authors! Just send an email to any of us, or to yolandarenee@hotmail.com

Look for our first 4th Wednesday post next week, with L. G. Keltner, author of Felix Was Here!

Thanks for your patience and support!

L G Keltner – June 22
Sandra Cox – July 27
Sylvia Ney – August 24
Michael Abayomi – September 28
Crystal Collier – October 26
Yolanda Renee – November 23
Cherie Reich – December 28
Hart Johnson – January 25
Tamara Narayan - February 22
Melanie Schulz -   March  22


We're Ready!



If you have a suggestion or question, please let us know!