Monday, September 26, 2022

I'm Not Saying it's Aliens: Open Book Blog Hop

 

Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.

Today's question: Do you want science to find aliens or find that we are alone in the universe? Does it scare you to think there are likely other beings out there?

I very much like the idea of aliens. I've enjoyed the utopian version of things like Star Trek, where we all work together. I've enjoyed the monster-movie version of things like Aliens where it becomes survival. 

Authors have used "aliens" as an inroad into a lot of difficult topics: racism, colonialism, culture clash, etc. It's an opportunity to use an "outsider" lens to look back at ourselves, imagining how aliens might do things differently and what they might think of how we do things here. 

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I kind of doubt that a real life encounter with aliens would prove as cinematic and dramatic as the stories I've enjoyed though. 

It might look a lot more like immigration, with a new kind of people meeting with the usual xenophobia followed by slow integration and acceptance. I don't see any particular reason to expect that aliens, if they show up on Earth, will want to eat, enslave, or conquer us. 

But it's fun to imagine the possibilities, life forms that are really physically different than humans or animals that we know. Beings that communicate, eat, and breathe differently. If you're looking for some positive alien-human interaction stories, I'll recommend Becky Chambers's Wayfarer series of books and novellas. I LOVE her work. 

I've got a couple of alien stories in the works myself and hope to be able to tell you where you can read them soon! In the meantime, what do you think of aliens? How do imagine an extraterrestrial encounter would fall out? I'd love to hear about it in the comments. 


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Monday, September 19, 2022

World Building: An Open Book Blog Hop Post

 


Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. This week, we're talking about world-building.  I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.

When I think about worldbuilding, I drop straight into fantasy: made up peoples, places, governments, and systems. Something like Dune, where Frank Herbert literally built a world. Arrakis, home of sandworms, spice, and political intrigue. 

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But the truth is that worldbuilding is part of the work for any writer--even if your work is set in "the real world."  There are still things the reader needs to understand about the limits and constraints of the characters' lives. 

Details of character like age, socio-economic status, upbringing, geography, workplace, relationship status, race, gender, and so much more make all the difference in a story. A simple scene like a confrontation with the boss takes on entirely different hues, depending on all the subtext. Who is older? What's the power dynamic between these characters? What's the "culture" in the workplace? Saying "no" has completely different resonance fully in the setting. 

I've written stories set in worlds very different from my own--on other planets, in the far future, or in the distant past, but I'm always world-building, even when the story is set yesterday at 2:00 in the town I live in. 

The Menopausal Superhero novels are in a gray area--set in a world very much like the one I actually inhabit, but where superpowers are a reality. So, Flygirl still has to worry about her children's schooling, but also literally flies into action in her work with the Unusual Cases Unit. 

It's always tricky, balancing world building with the other needs of the story, moving forward the plot, characters, themes, etc. The best world building is integrated and natural, introducing information as it matters, rather than burying the reader in pages of backstory, or making them "study first" by slogging through an info-dump of a prologue.  The key is making it easy for the reader, and when it's done very well, those world-building details are a spark of interest and delight. 

What kinds of details of worldbuilding make or break a story for you? 

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Monday, September 12, 2022

Fame and Fortune Await: An Open Book Blog Hop Post

 


Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. This week, we're talking about what would happen if our books took off tomorrow, with enormous worldwide interest and sales.  I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post. 

That's a favorite daydream of mine. Somehow someone with a huge following stumbles across my work, falls in love with it, and uses that big megaphone of theirs to proclaim to the universe how witty, inspiring, entertaining, and life-changing my Menopausal Superhero novels are and boom! I'm there! 

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Now the question today asks if I'm prepared for that dream to come true. And honestly, probably not. I've spent my life somewhere between poverty and middle class with dips back and forth. I've never had "big bucks" in my life and have known very few people who do in any kind of personal way. 

But you know what? I can learn. 

I've managed being a "Greaser" among "Socs" before--I was that one public school scion among private school graduates in grad school. I stuck it out in the Chapel Hill Mom's club for nearly a year, even though they didn't know what to do with a mom with a day job and no nanny. 

The key is pretending that it's not that you can't afford better, it's that you choose what you have. No, I don't have a beach house, but it's because I like visiting different beaches every time I go. No, I don't wear designer brands, but it's because I'm socially conscious and won't wear brands that use exploitative labor practices. 

See? I can fake it! 

Could I handle the "fame"? I think, yes! Being a famous author isn't like being an actress or politician. Very few people know what their favorite authors look like or where they live. There are only a handful of living writers I would recognize if we passed one another on the street.  

Unless I start behaving badly and tweeting obnoxious things to get myself cancelled, I could quietly enjoy the bigger royalty checks, slip away from my day job, spoil my children a little, and travel more. 

So, yeah. I think I can take it. So feel free, people of the Internet, to spread the word and make me a social media darling. I promise to do more good than evil with the money, and keep on writing books!


Want to see how other writers feel about fame and fortune on the horizon? Check out the other posts in this blog hop at this link: 

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Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Not the Genre for Me: An Insecure Writers Support Group Post

 


Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month. You know what that means! It's time to let our insecurities hang out. Yep, it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. If you're a writer at any stage of career, I highly recommend this blog hop as a way to connect with other writers for support, sympathy, ideas, and networking. If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG. The awesome co-hosts for the September 7 posting of the IWSG are Kim Lajevardi, Cathrina Constantine, Natalie Aguirre, Olga Godim, Michelle Wallace, and Louise - Fundy Blue! Be sure to stop by and see what they have to say when you finish here.

September 7 question - What genre would be the worst one for you to tackle and why?
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I like trying on new genres. Trying something I've never done before is part of the joy of writing for me. It's part of why I love writing for anthologies: it's like being invited to play a new game.

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Mostly, I like to stay under the speculative fiction umbrella, writing something with unrealistic elements--creatures, magic, made-up technologies, superpowers, wild settings, etc. 

I guess I don't like limiting my imagination to just what is actually possible. Part of the joy of playing with my imaginary friends is asking: "What if?" And I like to leave a broad range of answers open. 

I've tried a lot of the subgenres that more broadly are known as science fiction and fantasy. 

In fact, when I look at this list of subgenres, there are only a few I haven't at least dabbled in. And the others are things I am likely still to try in the future. 

Maybe not military or space opera? I don't read much of it or watch much of it, but you never know. I didn't expect to write horror, but now I have more horror stories out there than superhero ones. 

I haven't written a mystery yet, but I had an idea for one recently. 

I think the genre I am least likely to take on at this point is literary fiction. 

Although…

I do have a realistic historical novel on the back burner, just waiting for me to make research time so I can finish it, so maybe even that isn't a solid no. 

Hmmm. Maybe the truth is that there isn't anything out there under the writing sky that is a hard no for me. I'm open to the stories that come to me, whatever they turn out to be. Some would require some more learning than others, but I'm open to growth to building new skill sets to be able to do justice to a new concept that inspires me.

How about you? As a writer, and as a reader, are there genres that you're not drawn to? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Monday, September 5, 2022

An Interview with the Sidekick: an Open Book Blog hop post


Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. This week, we're interviewing some of our "minor" characters.  I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post. 

So, let me introduce you to Suzie Grayson, from my Menopausal Superhero series. Suzie is the youngest character in the series who isn't someone's child, and one of the few non-powered characters in the main circle of heroes. 

Series Book Covers, by arrangement with the publisher


She entered the story as Patricia O'Neill's intern in book 1 Going Through the Change, and was there when Patricia's powers erupted and by her side as she built her hero's life as The Lizard Woman of Springfield. Some might call her a sidekick, but Suzie would object to that portrayal. 

Me: Hello, Suzie, Thanks for joining us here on Balancing Act today.
Suzie: My pleasure. It's not every day I get a private audience with our author.
Me: I hope you don't feel neglected.
Suzie: No worries. I've got surprises in store for you yet!
Me: (laughing nervously) Let's get to it. I know that people tend to underestimate you. I love writing those moments when they find out that they should have given a little more thought to the cute blonde. Do you have any favorite moment like that in our books?
Suzie: Well, of course my favorite is the short story about me: Underestimated.
Me: That is a good one! I really loved it when you turned off the generator by throwing your shoe into it. Quick thinking!
Suzie: That was a good moment, though I was more proud of the way I escaped from the chair they had tied me to.
Me: Classic sidekick moment. Though, of course, you didn't sit around waiting to be rescued. 
Suzie: No way. Patricia needed me. 
Me: You guys have a special relationship. 
Suzie: (laughing) Sure. You could call it that. There's nobody like her. But let's just call it what it is: she's my girlfriend. 
Me: What's that like? Working with your significant other?
Suzie: Well, it's never easy to work with Patricia, and it hasn't gotten easier since we started dating. But she's learning that I don't need protecting any more than she does. I'm really excited to see what you settle on for us in the next book!
Me: (sigh) Me, too. It's been hard, writing the series ender. 
Suzie: (winking) We can always come back for side stories later. It doesn't have to be good-bye!
Me: (brightening) You're right! 
Suzie: Of course. I almost always am. 

So glad you had the chance to meet Suzie, a feisty, determined, and brilliant young woman who is a delight to work with on the page. You can find her spotlight story in my Menopausal Superheroes short story collection: Through Thick and Thin. 

book cover by arrangement with the publisher


Now that you've met Suzie, click on the Inlinkz party below to meet some other great characters in my colleagues' work. 

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Monday, August 29, 2022

Open Book Blog Hop: Writing Short Stories

 


Welcome to Monday! I'm trying something new this week: the Open Book Blog Hop. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. This week, we're talking about short stories: 

Do you ever write short stories? What do you see as the biggest difference in the writing process between a short story and a full-length book?

Though my primary work is novels, The Menopausal Superhero series and some other as-yet-unfinished and unpublished works, I also LOVE writing short stories. 


Novels are not small endeavors. I'm a writer with a day job, stuffing my writing life into a couple of hours a day most of the time, so drafting a novel is the work of a year or more for me. Writing a series of novels means living in the same imaginary universe for multiple years. I've been writing my Menopausal Superheroes since 2014. 

Even though writing is always a labor of love for me, staying on track and meeting publishing deadlines for my novels can start to feel more like work than play. 

When I need a break from the current novel, I cheat on her with short stories. 

Short stories give me an opportunity to try on something new without the same level of commitment that a novel requires. I can explore new characters, new worlds, new situations. I can play around in new genre sandboxes. I can finish a draft of a short story quickly, sometimes in only one or two writing sessions. That feeling of finishing things is addictive. 

For me, short fiction is all about play. They are key for keeping me connected to the joy of a writing life, even when it feels like my novel is trying to kill me. It's my chance to say, "I've never tried that! Let's go!" 

Interestingly, a lot of my short fiction comes out dark. 


It's quite a contrast, because my novel series is light, dramedy in tone, intermixing comedic elements with action, with a heavy focus on women's friendship. 

I think it's because I'm usually writing short fiction when I'm feeling frustrated with longer fiction, so I walk into it in a darker mood. Plus, honestly, I just have a taste for the creepy. 

My first loves as a child were Grimm's fairy tales and Tanakh, as recounted for me by my mother and grandmothers, who didn't pull any punches about the scary bits. No Disney-fication for little Samantha. I tell people that I might look more like Laura Ingalls Wilder, but inside? It's all Wednesday Addams. 

My most recent publication is a horror story. "How Does Your Garden Grow?" is featured in A Woman Unbecoming, a new charity anthology in support of reproductive rights from Crone Girls Press. 


If you like horror, or are just horrified by the most recent attacks on women's health and rights in the United States, I hope you'll check it out.

And after you do, please check out the posts from my fine colleagues below: 

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Wednesday, August 3, 2022

IWSG: You Can't Always Get What You Want




Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month. You know what that means! It's time to let our insecurities hang out. Yep, it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. If you're a writer at any stage of career, I highly recommend this blog hop as a way to connect with other writers for support, sympathy, ideas, and networking. If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG. The awesome co-hosts for the August 3 posting of the IWSG are Tara Tyler, Lisa Buie Collard, Loni Townsend, and Lee Lowery! Be sure to stop by and see what they have to say when you finish here. 

August 3 question - When you set out to write a story, do you try to be more original or do you try to give readers what they want?

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Trying to give readers what they want is a dangerous game. For one thing, figuring out what that is can be darn tricky. For another thing, take any two readers, and you might get conflicting desires. 

Really, when I'm deciding where a story should go, it's not the readers I look to, but the story. What does the story need? What's the right tone, plot twist, narrator, setting, or ending for this story? 

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Sometimes doing that means that even I, as the writer, don't necessarily get what I want. After all, I love my characters and I want them to end up well, but fictional people don't get off that easily--they have to face conflict, danger, challenges, and change. Otherwise, they're just not interesting enough for the page. 

But when you get it right--it's like magic. The stars align, music plays, and you just feel it in the center of your being.  That's what I'm looking for: what the story needs. And once I've found that, it might not be what I thought I wanted, but I'm always glad it's what I got.