Wednesday, January 22, 2020

about the Forgotten Worlds series length

I can see that pre-orders have slowed for book 5 of the Starfire Angels: Forgotten Worlds series. I can only guess as to why, since I feel that IN DARKNESS, LIGHT is a very strong story and a key part of the series.

One of those guesses is that people are worried that the series will go on indefinitely.

Rest assured, that is most definitely NOT the case. I have a whole arc planned for the series with room to spare. I just ask that you have patience and stick with it.

I am planning on four books per year for the next several years, for an expected total of around 24 books, give or take a few. Yes, that's a lot of books, but they are short novels. Each has its own plot that wraps up in each book but that also contributes to the overall arc of the series in at least some small way.

My plan is to allow room for some meandering and lighter stories early in the series while continuing on the main story. Throughout the series, the characters will have room to develop in ways I can't even predict. The closer I get to the end, the tighter and more focused the stories will become in the main plot of the series. I have it outlined so that I know what points I need to hit for it to all come together in a nice wrap up at the end.

So, if this is your reason for not continuing, please be assured that this isn't going to be an always meandering, never-ending quest. I have a plan. It will come to a satisfying conclusion.

Stick with it. The best is yet to come!

Sunday, January 19, 2020

the trials and victories of series writing

So, I've been struggling with writing Starfire Angels: Forgotten Worlds for the last month. I've been writing scenes and scrapping them. Something has been off, partly me (unfocused and foggy) and partly because of that unconscious mind trying to say something is wrong with the plan. The infamous infection of writer's block has been a scourge on me, a blight that I haven't been able to lift.

And then, when I thought I had the story moving forward, albeit at a snail's pace, I realized what I was actually writing was the end of #7 and the beginning of #8. It just occurred to me today while walking on the treadmill and watching an episode of Stargate: Atlantis. Something in that episode of Dr. Weir having to fight nanites who have been trying to make her believe she never went to Atlantis clicked for me.

Disposition of Dreams is very similar in a way, and that's the only hint anyone is getting of the plot at this point, except for the blurb on the front of the cover that is online.

If you look closely, it says "Nya's survival will depend on choosing the right reality." It was an interesting story to write and very appropriate for the series progress. You'll see why this summer.

The problem has been following that up. I am so anxious to skip right to #8, Racing the Orast Belt (or something like that for the title), that I think a part of my mind was trying to skip ahead and write that when I know I should be writing the transition between the two books. What I want to write and what I know I should be writing have been conflicting, like trying to drive a car with one foot on the gas and one on the brake.

Now, while rewatching Stargate: Atlantis, I finally became aware of the conflict that was causing this horrendous case of writer's block. With that knowledge, I think I can go forward on FW7, because it occurred to me what I needed was something else entirely than what I expected. Nya suffered greatly in 6, and 7 needs to reflect that and move her forward in healing. And I was thinking while walking that I wanted to do more with Vel's character development. That with the plot in the Atlantis episode made me realize what the series needed in a way that finally satisfied the unconscious writing mind.

I've moved what I had started for FW7 to be the opening for FW8, so I'm back to a blank page for 7; in other words, starting over (again), but I know now what I need to do. Also, I didn't know how I was going to start 8, and what I was creating under the guise of 7 works brilliantly; the general scenes will remain to get the characters to the races, figuratively and literally. However, it will require some rewriting with whatever I fill in between. I had also written a scene that I felt was more of a closing/transition scene (which are usually characters outside the main cast) and will use that at the end of 7. This will set me back, but it will move the series forward in a better way. I just needed to get that out of my head so I could clear it away for what I really needed to do.

Whew! Writing can be a mess sometimes. I took on this challenge of such a series because I had a vision to write something grand in scale and scope. I knew it would be a challenge, but I thought I had it under control. My muse loves to torment me sometimes.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

bully victims, fight back, but don't become the bully

Bullying is defined as "abuse and mistreatment of someone vulnerable by someone stronger, more powerful, etc. : the actions and behavior of a bully." (Merriam-Webster). Verbally, they use manipulation, lies, put-downs, cold-shoulders, talking behind the victim's back, whining/complaints, belittling, stealing attention, using higher or perceived higher status to get their way, etc. Physically, they shove, punch, steal, take over space, etc. The worst is when they do it with simple body language and don't have to say/write a word. Women tend to use the language methods and men the physical, although both span all forms.

When I was young, I was often the target of bullies, usually boys. I was small, meek, wore glasses (still do), and was a brainy girl who preferred being a tomboy. I had two younger brothers close to my age, so the latter isn't much of a surprise.

I didn't fit into any mold but was who I was. I was always awkward socially, which made me an easy target. On the bus, in school, you name it. Bullies surrounded me from my earliest school days to my last. My parents always told me to ignore them and they would eventually give up interest. The problem was that they never did.

I often cried and I did have suicidal thoughts. Life was hard. But I had my faith and that kept me going. I knew that, even when I went through the stage of puberty when parents are always wrong and don't understand (or at least as teens, we think we know better--life and experience teaches us how wrong we are), that Jesus didn't want me to give up. I will say that that was the only way I kept going.

Not until I started fighting back/standing up against the bullies did I ever see any relief. I had to fight against them time and again, and I gained some confidence as I did, although I was always told that to do so was wrong and I feared getting into trouble. But I'd had enough and was determined not to let the bullies win. Yielding felt like losing to me. Yes, I got into trouble a couple of times. And it seems that kids today who fight back still do--some things never change. However, it doesn't take much for bullies in school to give up and find a new victim to harass once you start standing up against them. They fear losing their power and want an easy target, a victim not a fighter.

You know what? That fighting back made me more confident, if only a little at a time. I didn't give them the power over me that they wanted. Maybe the toughness was started from dealing with two younger brothers who constantly pestered me when we were young, but that was only a start--good ol' sibling rivalry. (Things changed as my brothers matured, but hindsight is 20/20.) And I changed. I had the mental scars, but I also gained resilience for the greater challenges in life that were to come. As for those bullies, once I was out of school, they lost their power. Some might have gone into jobs that gave them power, but that doesn't last for them. The real world is quite an eye-opener.

The point of this is to say you can't see that at the time that things will work out, but if you hang in there, you will be stronger. It feels like the end of the world. Don't give in. Fight back, but beware going too far and becoming that which you despise. Too many people take it too far and become the totalitarians of tomorrow or want to bubble wrap everyone. Neither is the answer.

As a result, we have become a soft society--wanting someone else to fight our fights or to be cushioned from any hardship. I have news for you--LIFE ISN'T EASY. Each person must learn to cope in their own life. No one can live your life for you. Know your strengths and compensate for your weaknesses. Learn to take matters into your hands and stand up for yourself. If you don't start, you'll never develop the strength to get through life.

When we're young, every little thing feels like the end of the world, because we don't have the life experience to compare to what real struggle is. Just wait until you're out on your own, barely making ends meet, struggling with rent and transportation and budgeting for food, gas, clothes, and maybe entertainment while going to school. THAT is a real struggle. You won't know until you've lived through difficulties just how strong you can be. The key is living through it.

It does get better, especially when you learn the right coping skills through experience and training and gain confidence in yourself by confronting the difficulties. Bullies are encountered at every stage of life, and they learn to be more manipulative and subtle in adulthood. I've worked with them, but it was because of my resilience and the scars earned by dealing with them in my youth that I survived them in adulthood. After leaving those jobs, I have encountered them and realized how pathetic they are. There's one thing I've learned at every stage--they are bullies because they are insecure. Pity them and move on. Know that if you can't fight them on fair terms, their ways will eventually get them in trouble and you won't have to sully your reputation or conscience to have that satisfaction.

Being a survivor and overcoming the bullying is your revenge. Don't give in. Fight back when you can without becoming them. Be better and keep your chin up. Bullies are pathetic, insecure people. But BEWARE-- In this age of the internet, people can be shamed online and mobbed for perceived bad behavior, but that is never the answer and there is always more to the story than you may realize (both online and IRL). One who gets online revenge can also be the victim of such acts. And it only taints your conscience by becoming that which is despised. Two wrongs don't make a right, as my grandma always said.

Fight back against bullies, but don't become them. And when you see them later in life, thank them for teaching you to be strong. There's no better revenge than success!

Saturday, January 11, 2020

The science in science fiction, and other world-building considerations

I love science! I've always loved science. But I got my degree in business administration. (There's something you might not have known about me.) Maybe that's why I've always been more drawn to science fiction than fantasy, although I do enjoy that too.

I love logic. I love to know the why's and how's of everything. I get a little high when I figure out a connection that's always consistent. I had a tough time in geometry when I first started learning proofs, but once I got it, the whole world made more sense to me. There are always steps that lead from one thing to another, and that actually works in writing a story too.

There's a certain logic to how things are connected. In world-building, you have to be able to see the broader picture of how things develop and why they are. In my Starfire Angels universe, I had to create a world where beings would develop wings, but more than that, I had to figure out an ecosystem that would make it plausible and lead to the society they have. To make them seem like angels to humans, I had to give them the powers described of angels and a history; that led to the Starfire crystal. Then, I had to figure out why that gave them powers and how those powers worked in very specific ways and where that crystal came from. It was all interlocking. I developed that while writing the young adult beginning of the series, Dark Angel Chronicles.

By the time I started writing the latest stage of this series, Forgotten Worlds, my Inari angels were fully developed, but I have had a LOT of new species to consider. I jumped into the deep end of the species creation pool while writing THE RULE OF YONDER. However, there are even more to come, and don't forget the main species (different races of humans, the Inari, and the Issan). By IN DARKNESS, LIGHT, I reveal the face of the bad guys, the Issan. I knew they had to be particularly tough, but I had to figure out why they were so powerful, and not just for their war machines and purpose. Outside their armor, they are as much of a threat as within it.

In IDL, I introduce a new character that intrigues Nik, the xenobiologist in my group of characters. Because the planet they are on has a lighter gravity, L'Ni's abilities go even further than they might on other worlds with heavier gravities. Lighter gravity also works to Nya's advantage with flight, although she doesn't always make the wisest of decisions. (Nobody is perfect, especially under pressure.) Nik's only explanation is one of biological facts that he understands of humanoid species, yet even he is perplexed by the greater density of tissues of L'Ni's species. He does in the end realize what L'Ni is, but not how he evolved that way.

(I know the answer, but I can't reveal that yet. It will come in time as the characters figure it out. I can't reveal everything up front!)

Language is another area that I know develops with culture and from culture. It is as intertwined as the environment and physical development of species. In fact, all of these are so intertwined that they cannot be separated. I had to figure out a way for all of these species to communicate and considered the many science fiction reasons of other series--translators, babel fish, etc.--and looked at our world. In our real world, we have to learn to communicate through a shared language, usually English, or through translators, although also with computers. In fact, we have computer programs that can translate statements from one language to another, but they need to "learn" the languages. Science fiction allows a little more advancement on this idea, limited only by one's imagination.

In this series, I use both mechanical translators and individuals with language skills to translate. Many of the species who interact with other species learn two or more languages. However, by far, the easiest method is to use one common language for all interactions, so I decided that they had developed the galactic standard trading language, or Standard for short. There are still species (ie Oolans) who have a hard time speaking it or simply can't be understood by many, and not every being has learned it.

Another factor of language development is that there may not be one language for a whole species. I haven't yet had a reason to explore that, but it could come up, just as on Earth we don't have one language but dozens. Also, language changes over time, as Nya has realized with the jewelry piece given to her on Yonder (which will be explained in a future book). The Inari may have been space-faring for a very long time (see CRYSTAL TOMB (Dark Angel Chronicles #3)), but they went through periods of change.

There are nuances to language that also must be kept in mind. I try to create expressions appropriate to the beings of this universe, some shared by those who get around the galaxy and some unique to species or specific groups based on cultural norms. They may not make sense to our real world experiences, but they do to the characters in their setting.

As the story goes on, you'll see a variety of known science touched on, as well as plausible explanations that aren't known science but are a part of this world-building (Starfire crystal and all that it brings to the story, for one). Everything here has a logical, plausible explanation in the setting of this world-building, even if it wouldn't be possible based on what our science understands. It is science "fiction", after all!

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Good bye, old girl

After over fourteen years with our girl (she had just turned two when we adopted her), we had to make a tough decision. In declining health, no longer eating, and feeble in old age of over sixteen years, our old cat gave all the signs of being ready to go. It was quick--within seconds--and painless, except for the stress of the short trip to the vet, but she didn't even fret long about that and seemed to be ready.

Padme through the years:

Camouflage kitty (2005)

Padme and youngest child (2007)

Learning how to train horses

a surrogate mother to Dargo (winter 2010-2011)

Dargo still loves his "mom" (2014)
Suki, Dargo, Padme in the sun 

Padme, Jack, Dargo (left-right) (2017)

Dec 2018

In her final days, this was where she secluded herself while waiting to pass

Most of her life, she loved warm laps, lots of attention, anyone who came in the house, and her kitty housemates. She played surrogate mother to those who came in as kittens, or at least in her early years (not so much by the time we brought in Jack). She was a wild child in her younger days but in later years, just wanted a warm lap and attention. She would purr loudly and shove her nose into your hand for petting.

Her family misses her. The other kitties know something is missing, but they will go on, hopefully in good health for many years.