Category Archives: Guest Post

Author Elsie Chapman Guest Post and Giveaway!

DividedDeveloping Your Fictional World
by Elsie Chapman

Developing your fictional world is, at its heart, a very personal process for a writer. There are so many ways it can be tackled. I’ve read before that you should attack a new world as a block of marble, chipping away at the unnecessary bits until all that is left are the essentials—the guts that will drive your story. I’ve also read that you should think of a new world as a sand sculpture—what you want to do is add layers slowly, a bit here and a bit there, until you’ve added everything you need and no more.

Maybe it’s a more a combination of both. Fits and starts. Two steps forward and one step back. Worlds are aggravating and they’re moody. Some days they are buried so deep you think they are never going to see light—others, you are dealing with bare bones that will fall apart if you sneeze wrong.

Whichever method of attack, the end result needs to be the same—a world that’s well drawn enough that a reader can envision it in their head and understand how it works, but not to the point where it begins to fight your characters for attention. A good world, I think, knows when to sit back and let its characters be. A good world, I think, really is a stage.

Some questions you can ask yourself about your world as you work:

What’s happened in your world in the past to bring it to where it is now? You’re about to write a book with a plot based about certain events. But what happened to lead to those events?

Technology? Education? Religion? Politics? Language? Education? Transportation?

Description of everyday things will ground your world and make it believable to a reader looking for ways to relate. Think about your senses. Think about colour and sound.

How diverse is your world? Diversity can make or break a world when it comes to believability. Why and how is your world the way it is when it comes to diversity? What do its people look like? How do they work together? How do they relate to each other?

Not all of your answers are going to end up in your book because not all of them are going to come into play. You will probably be okay not describing in minute details the food your character consumes over the course of a day (unless, of course, your world actually is about food, eg a world where hunger is a huge factor, etc.). Sure, most of that information will end up being background noise, but background noise is better than the silence of not knowing. Not knowing often leads to plot holes and contradictions in your world; both are frustrating to fix after the fact.

Like any work of art, start slow.
Tread thoughtfully.
There’s no rush.
It’s as much about letting your world develop as it is about you developing it, really.

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About DIVIDED:
In Elsie Chapman’s debut young adult novel, Dualed, West Grayer trained as a fighter in preparation for the day when her assignment arrived and she had one month to hunt down and kill her Alt—a twin raised by another family. In Chapman’s much anticipated sequel DIVIDED (Random House Books for Young Readers | On sale May 27, 2014 | Ages 12 up), West is back and has to undergo one last test before she can be free to live her life . . . but will she survive?

“We need you to kill again. . . .”

West Grayer is done killing. She defeated her Alternate, a twin raised by another family, and proved she’s worthy of a future. She’s ready to move on with her life. But the Board isn’t through with her. Somehow they know her past as an assassin, and they offer her a deal that’s almost too good to be true: safety for her future children and a clean slate if she kills one more time. It should be an easy job. Except West recognizes her target: It’s her dead brother’s Alt—hauntingly familiar and yet a stranger.

The Board is lying, and West will have to uncover the truth of the past to secure her future. How far will the Board go to keep their secrets safe? And how far will West go to save those she loves?

Fast-paced action with surprising twists, DIVIDED is an exhilarating page-turner that delivers a fierce punch as West’s decisions kindle rebellion!

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About the Author:
ELSIE CHAPMAN grew up in Prince George, British Columbia, Canada, before graduating from the University of British Columbia with a BA in English literature. She lives in Vancouver with her husband and two children, where she writes to either movies on a loop or music turned up way too loud (and sometimes both at the same time). For more information, please visit Elsie at ElsieChapman.com.

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Courtesy of Random House, I have a copy of Divided for one (1) lucky winner!

Contest is open to US residents only. No PO Boxes, please. To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest ends July 11. I’ll draw a name on July 12, and notify winner via email.

ENTER DAILY TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING!

Good luck!

Continue reading Author Elsie Chapman Guest Post and Giveaway!

Author Jaime Lee Moyer Guest Post and Giveaway!

Five Things I’ve Learned Since I Sold My First Novel
by Jaime Lee Moyer

1. Publishing is made of ninety percent waiting and ten percent frantic activity. Months creep past and from your perspective, nothing happens. Then comes the rush of copyedits—followed by nothing, the thrill of cover reveals followed by (you guessed it) nothing, first pass pages (followed by nothing), and not too too long after a case of author copies arrives at your door. Holding a copy of your book makes up for all the waiting.

2. Walking into a bookstore and seeing your book on the shelf, the book you lost sleep over, agonized over, and worked to make your very best, is an emotional experience that’s impossible to describe. Knowing that people are reading your words, which is what you’ve worked years for, is both overwhelming and humbling.

3. People at conventions, conferences—readers, fans (!!)—start to treat you differently as soon as your book comes out. Writers aren’t rock stars, but you become an author with a capital A. Staying grounded is important, as is remembering that not that long ago, you were the shy fan nervous about talking to a real writer.

4. Fan mail will never, ever get old. That someone took the time out of their day to tell me they liked my book feels like such a gift. Probably because it is.

5. And I’ve learned that eleven-year-old me was right about being a writer. I want to do this for the rest of my life. This is the best job ever.

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Courtesy of Tor Books, I have a copy of A BARRICADE IN HELL by Jaime Lee Moyer for one (1) lucky winner!

Contest is open to US residents only. No PO Boxes, please. To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest ends June 27. I’ll draw a name on June 28, and notify winner via email.

ENTER DAILY TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING!

Good luck!

Continue reading Author Jaime Lee Moyer Guest Post and Giveaway!

Emmy Laybourne Guest Post Q&A

savage drift Emmy Laybourne

I’m so delighted to be here on SciFiChick.com for the first day of my Blog Tour for SAVAGE DRIFT!

SAVAGE DRIFT is the last book in the MONUMENT 14 trilogy. I thought it would be fun to look back at the wonderful blog interviews I’ve done since beginning the trilogy in 2010 and give you:
My Favorite 6 QUESTIONS I’ve Ever Been Asked by a Blogger!

1. If the characters from MONUMENT 14 were to celebrate a holiday, how would they do it? – Olivia, YA Lit Mag

Well, it’s funny – they’re in a big store with lots of different supplies, so if they were going to celebrate a holiday, they would have most of the materials on hand to really do it up!

I think that Niko would assign people to be on different committees – Josie would head up decorations, Dean and Batiste would dream up a special meal, Jake would take over figuring out some special games to celebrate the day, and maybe Sahalia would sing and play guitar!

I can also imagine Josie organizing the little kids to perform some sort of a pageant. Of course, Chloe would be the star, Mac would probably forget his lines and improvise but then Ulysses would steal the show by break-dancing!

2. Why did you choose to make the main character of MONUMENT 14 a boy? Was it hard to make his voice authentic (you know… since you’re not a boy)? – Enna, Squeaky Books

You know, it’s weird, but I never for a second considered making the narrator of MONUMENT 14 a girl! I think this is because I started thinking about who would be in the story and Dean just stepped forward in my mind, to be the narrator. If I had made the narrator a girl, a lot would have been different – perhaps the story would have developed as a love triangle between the narrator, Jake and Niko! As it is, Dean is sort of torn between Niko’s serious, boy scout mentality and Jake’s playboy attitude. But of course, it’s not a love triangle between them! More of a buddy triangle! (Note to self: Write movie called Buddy Triangle!)

3. If you could have one super power what would it be? – Amy, Readingteen Continue reading Emmy Laybourne Guest Post Q&A

Dan Wells Guest Post

Ruins

Author Dan Wells joins SciFiChick.com today to talk about dystopias and his latest release RUINS!

What Is Dystopia?
by Dan Wells

Dystopian fiction comes in a lot of different flavors. It’s the reigning queen of YA right now, with books like THE HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT topping the charts, but what does dystopia really mean? I see a lot of people using “dystopia” more or less as a synonym for “young adult science fiction,” but there’s so much more nuance in our genre than that. If we lump all science fiction under the dystopian umbrella, we’re missing out on the wonderful variety that science fiction has to offer.

Dystopia, in it’s origins, was about societies that tried to create a utopia–a wonderful place–but ended up created a horrible place instead. Usually these stories focus on conformity, and the loss of individual freedom; there’s a lot of “communism is scary” tied up in these kinds of books. This category includes not just old stuff like BRAVE NEW WORLD, 1984, and “Harrison Bergeron,” but newer books like UGLIES and MATCHED and DIVERGENT. The government tries to solve one set of problems, and in doing so goes too far and creates a whole new set of problems, and then it’s up to our plucky heroes and heroines to save the day.

Another flavor of dystopia shows society screwing itself up without any help from the government at all. In these stories the world wasn’t made terrible on purpose, it just happened that way naturally thanks to evil corporations (SNOW CRASH, JENNIFER GOVERNMENT), natural causes (CHILDREN OF MEN), or our own obsession with entertainment and hedonism (A CLOCKWORK ORANGE). These stories differ from the first group in that the terrible aspects of society are not enforced, they just happen and we can’t escape from them; the focus of the story is not on overthrowing the society, but on trying to find some way to live within it.

Entertainment-based dystopias became a whole sub-genre of their own, drawing on the Roman idea of using “bread and circuses” to keep the populace in line. In these stories life is terrible, and resources are limited, so the leaders maintain order by distracting us with a constant barrage of media. FAHRENHEIT 451 is one of the oldest in this category; later entries put a stronger focus on blood sport and violence (THE RUNNING MAN, BATTLE ROYALE, THE HUNGER GAMES).

Because we think of dystopia as being “a terrible place,” we have a tendency to group any terrible place or society into the same category. This is especially common with post-apocalyptic stories (A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ, THE ROAD), but it gets expanded to include any old science fiction story about a place you wouldn’t want to live. Megacity One from Judge Dredd is awful, but is it dystopian? The Earth of CINDER is gripped by a terrible plague, but is their society a dystopia in any way similar to the other dystopias we’ve discussed? A genre definition that puts CINDER and 1984 into the same thematic category is a bad definition; I love both books, but for very different reasons, and they deserve a better system of classification that reflects this.

I don’t think it’s enough to say that “bad=dystopia,” because that categorization focuses solely on the props and trappings of a story, without considering what’s really going on–what the story is really about. A true dystopian story doesn’t just depict a bad society, it is about that society on a fundamental level. The characters in a dystopia are primarily concerned with surviving or changing the world they live in, and the story as a whole is intended to demonstrate how a certain idea or system or attitude can turn a society into a hell. A story like RoboCop, on the other hand, simply uses a dystopian society as a backdrop to tell a story about human augmentation, and the blurred lines between human and machine. It has a different purpose, and calling it a dystopia ignores this nuance.

So, the big question: is the Partials Sequence dystopian? There’s definitely elements of it: PARTIALS is specifically about an oppressive, authoritarian government, and one girl’s quest to change it, but after that it starts to change. FRAGMENTS and RUINS both continue to deal with questions of authority and responsibility, particularly when Kira learns the secrets behind the Preserve, but the focus of the story changes. If I were forced, I’d called PARTIALS a dystopian story, FRAGMENTS a quest story, and RUINS a…hmm. A war story? A chase story? More than anything else it’s an apocalypse story: the world ended thirteen years ago, and now it’s ending again, and Kira and her friends are trying everything they can to create a new civilization from the ashes. It’s a book about endings, but also about beginnings. I think that’s an important difference.

Whatever your tastes–dystopia, post-apocalypse, or just science fiction in general–I hope you like it.

David Edison Guest Post and Giveaway!

Author David Edison joins us today to talk about his debut The Waking Engine and his story of how he got published.
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Hello SciFiChick readers, and thank you for hosting my very first guest post ever. You may have read me at GayGamer.net in the past, or at Tor.com and TorForgeBlog.com, but never have I been hosted! The Chick herself suggested I share the story of my path to publishing, since the tale of my tale is an unusual one–here’s hoping that it’s also an interesting yarn.

THE WAKING ENGINE began, like many books and stories, with an upfront admission of failure. I wrote three chapters, shoved them in a drawer because I could not bear to look at them, and went right back to working as a video game journalist—a job a million girls might kill for, but not this one. Selling someone else’s hard work only served to remind me that my hard work was sleeping its life away in a drawer, and as I tired of rehashing press releases with an increasingly cynical eye, I began to wonder about the book that might have been.

Sometime in 2008, I found myself sitting in front of a fabulously intimidating literary agent, hoping against hope that she would share with me some kind of magic recipe that would turn me into a novelist. And so she did: she told me to finish the damn book. If book publishing has any magical advice at all, it’s that gem—three chapters can be horrible or wonderful, but they’re not a finished manuscript. Turns out, a finished manuscript is the secret ingredient. Whodathunk?

I scampered off, aware that I’d just been given an opportunity for which many writers would kill. Maybe I was Anne Hathaway in Devil Wears Prada, after all? The opportunity was mine to squander, and suddenly I spent my mornings juggling too many coffees (all mine) and throwing coats (mine) onto desks (also mine) where a wide-eyed, terrified young(ish) writer spent his time working feverishly but, largely, without a clue. I lost weight and soon fit into clothes that I could not enjoy because: pressure. My friends complained, and missed me, and wondered if I wasn’t becoming a little bit obsessed. They missed the smart, fat kid in the cerulean sweater.

A year passed, and I finished the manuscript. Timidly, I brought it back to my agency. After a few months of waiting, I received the feedback: cut a hundred pages and change the ending.

Continue reading David Edison Guest Post and Giveaway!

James Dashner Blog Tour and Giveaway!

Kill Order dashner

James Dashner joins SciFiChick.com today on his latest stop along his blog tour. I gave him some topic ideas, but instead of just talking about one, he gave short answers to all of them. So we have a bit of a Q&A instead!

What’s your vision of the future – Roddenberry-esque or apocalyptic?

I hope, sincerely hope, that it’s Roddenberry’s way of things. I like to think that at some point, before we reach a place where humans are about to destroy one another, we’ll finally learn our lessons and spiral the other direction. Clean up the Earth, stop the wars, venture into space, explore the universe. I certainly don’t think we’ll ever get rid of all our problems, never come close to a Utopia, but I also think it’s really stupid to just keep killing each other. I do, however, think that if we want to avoid an eventual apocalyptic scenario, we’ll have to figure out how to leave this planet eventually. Star Trek, here we come!

On writing for YA/children rather than adults

I often get asked how different my books would be if I wrote them for adults instead of teenagers. I honestly think they’d hardly be different at all. I never, ever think about the age of my audience as I write. I just want it to be a cool story with cool characters. To scare and surprise and thrill. To pull out some emotions. I guess I naturally fit in with the young adult audience because that’s when I truly fell in love with reading, the closest it’s ever been to true “magic.” When I write, I go back to that.

Worldbuilding for a scifi series

This is a really tough one for me. I try so hard to be patient, and make outlines, and develop my characters beforehand, and build my world, and all of that, before starting a draft. But it’s all in my head, and I get so excited that I can’t take it anymore and jump in. Writing a first draft is by far my favorite part of being an author. I have so much fun. And a lot of the worldbuilding comes organically as I move through the story. And a lot of it is also instinctual, whatever seems to make sense and jives with my vision. I rely on my brain to fill in a lot of the blanks that perhaps I should have thought out and written down at some earlier point. I don’t know. I do my best. Thankfully, I have a spectacular editor at Random House who helps me where I fail.

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Courtesy of Random House, I have a paperback copy of The Kill Order and a hardback copy of The Eye of Minds by James Dashner for one (1) lucky winner!

Contest is open to US residents only. No PO Boxes, please. To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest ends January 31. I’ll draw a name on February 1, and notify winner via email.

ENTER DAILY TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING!

Good luck!

Continue reading James Dashner Blog Tour and Giveaway!

Guest Post: Author L. Jagi Lamplighter

Rachel Griffin Cover L. Jagi Lamplighter

How to Avoid Being Flattened By the Steamroller of Progress
by L. Jagi Lamplighter

Recently, a friend sent me an ad for virtual keyboards. If you haven’t seen one, it’s a rather nifty device. You put it on your desk, and it casts a red light image of a keyboard on your desk. Then you type on it, as if it were a keyboard, and letters appear on your screen.

Rather cool.

Only, to my friend, the existence of this device was a bit of an embarrassment. He’s a science fiction writer, and five or ten years ago, he wrote a book where he predicted virtual keyboards. He made them up.

Back then. They were science fiction.

Today, they are fact.

Where does that leave him?

How, he wondered, do science fiction writers stay ahead of science fact?

No Escape for the Scientifically-Challenged

I felt for him. I had kind of been there.

I myself am a fantasy writer. You would think I would not have this problem. Alas, even we fantasy writers are plagued with being outrun by the march of progress.

When I first started the Prospero’s Daughter series in 1992, I wanted to make my main character, the five hundred year old Miranda, daughter of Prospero from Shakespeare’s Tempest, seem rich and capable, so I gave her a whole pile of nifty tech devices—not anything as wild as a James Bond gadget, but fancy, hard-to-get stuff that was extremely cutting edge.

By the time the book was published in 2009—I owned all but one of those devices.

I also had a scene where I wanted to show that she was very busy and very capable. So, back in 1992, I gave her many computers, all working at once.

Then, multi-tasking came along. Nobody bothered using more than one computer anymore.

Okay…I updated. I gave her a lot of printers all clacking away. Clacking, mind you, because back then, we were talking about dot-matrix printers. They made a lot of noise.

Couple of years later, I went back to revise the book, and printers weren’t so loud any more.

In the long run, I threw up my hands. I got rid of her high-tech office entirely and gave her an old fashion office with a huge desk and geese honking as they flew by outside.

I wasn’t even inventing the technology, and I couldn’t keep up.

Fighting Back

So, what does an author do to actually stay ahead of the invention curve?

Continue reading Guest Post: Author L. Jagi Lamplighter

Guest Post: Max Gladstone

Two Serpents Rise Gladstone, Max-2

Author Max Gladstone joins SciFiChick.com today to talk about worldbuilding over the course of a series. His latest release, Two Serpents Rise released from Tor Books on October 29, 2013.

Mosaic Worldbuilding
By Max Gladstone

How much do you really know about our world?

I don’t want to get all Obi Wan Kenobi here, but many of the beliefs we all have about our world depend on our orientations and positions within that world. I’m not even talking about big deal moral opinions—uncertainty goes all the way down to everyday stuff.

The price of gasoline or the distance of a commute or the number of pages in a book might seem objective, sure. But even those numbers look very different depending on who and where you are. Does filling your gas tank cost (a) as much as a Friday night dinner for two at your favorite restaurant, before drinks? (b) as much as you spent on food for the last week? (c) as much as your week’s rent? (d) enough to buy you a hundred liters of beer in a back-alley bar in Beijing? The answer depends on you.

Worldbuilding over the course of a series springs from that principle. A single book lays out some details of a setting, offers certain ‘truths’ about who’s good, who’s bad, who’s ugly, what magic looks and feels like, who the good guys are, and so forth—but those truths are filtered through the lens of a protagonist. To Our Hero Jane Wunderkind, Girl Inventor, the Mad Scientist’s Guild is an oppressive force preventing true social change. But what if the next book in the series focuses on Second Inspector deMaupassant’s conflicts with an insidious designer of self-replicating beetle automata who’s planning to set them loose in the center of Paris? It’s possible to tell an entire story from deMaupassant’s perspective, in which he’s the good guy and Jane’s Collective of Free Madmen (and -Women) are the danger.

Writing further books in a series is partly an exercise in finding and filling whitespace, sure, in extending the margins of the map, but merely filling whitespace leaves many possibilities unexamined. How much cooler to subvert and reinvent? To show the flip side of truths characters in prior books thought they knew? If your characters are big deal nobles and wizards, another book could show that society from beneath, or from the side.

My first book, Three Parts Dead, focused on a junior associate at an international necromancy firm—a young woman with disproportionate power and status for her age. Her life isn’t easy. She’s an outcast from much of human society as a result of her abilities. But she can bend the forces of nature (and supernature) to her whim, so there are consolations to be had. For Tara (my character), magic is awesome, something to be practiced, studied, and employed at every opportunity.

For the second book, Two Serpents Rise, I wanted to show the same world through the eyes of someone without Great Magical Powers™. Caleb, the main character in Two Serpents Rise, is a smart guy, but that’s it—he’s no Craftsman, no necromancer, and as a result the magic that defines and builds his world is a source of fear and uncertainty for him. He has status within his community, as a gambler, as a risk manager, as an employee, but he’s surrounded by forces beyond his control. For him, the fantasy setting verges regularly on horror. Meanwhile, where Tara views Craftsmen as good people discriminated against by a society that unjustly fears them, Caleb sees beings of caprice and immense magical might, that frequently disregard the rights and autonomy of other people as they pursue their own aims.

And that’s just one obvious axis. Characters in Two Serpents Rise have different perspectives as a result of their different historical, sociothaumaturgical, and racial backgrounds, sexual orientations, and classes. The juxtaposition of all those perspectives (I hope!) helps make the world real.

It turns out Obi Wan knew what he was talking about.

Bio:
Max Gladstone has been thrown from a horse in Mongolia and nominated for the John W Campbell Best New Writer Award. Two Serpents Rise, his second novel, is about water rights, human sacrifice, dead gods, and poker.

Links:

Amazon, IndieBound, Barnes and Noble, Powell’s, blog, and twitter feed.