Category Archives: Guest Post

Guest Post: Gail Martin on Gender and Genre

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Gender and Genre
By Gail Z. Martin

There’s been a lot of discussion in various places around the Net about gender and genre, specifically about women, sci-fi and fantasy. You can find that for yourself online if you’re interested: I won’t rehash. But SciFiChick asked for my 2-cents, so I’ll preface this by saying that it’s my opinion, for what it’s worth, as someone who has made a living writing epic fantasy for several years.

Maybe some of my perspective is difference because I came out of the corporate world in the 1980s and 1990s. I’m used to being the only female executive in a room, dealing with men who hailed from the Mad Men era and holding my own. As the head of Corporate Communications departments, I often worked with the CEO and Chairman, and I learned early on to hold my ground and never let ’em see you sweat. I’ve stared down boards of directors and attorneys, as well as pushy reporters. And I can flip and pin my 90 pound dog when he gets obstreperous. Maybe it was the perfect background for coming into the genre.

I’ve never run into discourteous behavior from my publishers, editors or agents. They’ve all been wonderful to work with, collaborative, respectful and professional. I know there are some folks who keep a running tally of how many women win or are nominated for certain awards, how many sit on particular boards, and that kind of thing. Maybe it’s my corporate background, but except for when I worked for a non-profit, I have never been in a work setting that was 50-50 men to women, so I don’t notice that kind of thing unless you point it out to me. I don’t expect it, so not getting it doesn’t faze me.

I look around at my author friends, some of whom are waiting for their first big break, some who are climbing up the mid-list, some who are sitting on top of the heap and some who are navigating creative transitions. I can’t say that I’ve seen those struggles go any easier for men than for women, or that I’ve seen men rocket to the top while women slog. Sometimes, I’d say that I’ve observed the opposite. I don’t think it’s entirely a gender issue, although discrimination is real and it does exist. Many times, I think frustration can be a matter of timing and luck. Sometimes you’re in the right place at the right time with the right story, and sometimes you’re not.

I think we’ve come a long way since George Sands turned out to be female and everyone got the vapors. By the middle of the Harry Potter series, everyone knew that JK was female and boys didn’t stop reading. I think publishers may be more hung up on perceived reader opinions than the readers are. After all, if people immediately see a writer who goes by initials, and assume the writer is female, it’s not much of a subterfuge! Are there individual dinosaurs out there, either on the consumer or publishing side, who think women “can’t” write a particular type of book? Probably. There were men who didn’t think women could or should hold certain types of corporate jobs. Flip the one-finger salute and keep moving on. Other people will recognize talent and not care which restroom you use.

When I was ten years old, my Great-Aunt Minerva sat me down for a talk. She was born in 1895, and she was a medical doctor, following in the footsteps of her father. She had co-habitated with her long-time partner Frank for 40 years, but they never married, the family rumor said, because they didn’t want to mingle their stock portfolios. Minerva was a force of nature. And she told me to do what I pleased with my life and to hell with what anybody’s opinion was.

I guess that stuck with me. An awful lot of people tried to tell me that I couldn’t be something or do something, and they had their reasons, that it wasn’t ladylike or that their view of God didn’t like it. Salute and move on. I don’t have time to keep tallies. Too busy doing what I do. In the long run, succeeding at what you want to do makes your point better than any argument. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

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Continue reading Guest Post: Gail Martin on Gender and Genre

Guest Post: Anton Strout

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Author Anton Strout joins SciFiChick.com to talk about his latest release STONECAST and the latest trends in urban fantasy!

“Blank is the New Vampire”
By Anton Strout

I’ve been in the publishing industry for sixteen years now. Six of those years have been as an author: first, for my Simon Canderous paranormal detective novels and now for second series the gargoyle-tastic Spellmason Chronicles, which includes ALCHEMYSTIC and the just released STONECAST. During my time in the book world, I get asked at a minimum of at least twice the same rumbling industry wide question: what’s the next paranormal trend?

When I started behind the scenes in 1998 at one of the Big Six, vampires were the big undead man on campus. Even then, the industry was saying vampire literature was a dying trend (no pun intended). Yet here we are, years later, with vampires still making the bestseller list. Not so dead, are they?

In recent years (I’m looking in your direction, PRIDE & PREJUDICE & ZOMBIES) everyone’s favorite brain eaters have become super hot. Werewolves and other shapeshifters have also declared the new hotness. There was even a trend out there of publishing books about selkies, which—as best I can recall without looking it up—are shape shifting were-seals out for some sexay times. Over and over fantasy/romance trend pieces try to put their finger on what the next monster hotness will be, but does anyone really know?

Man, I hope it’s gargoyles. Continue reading Guest Post: Anton Strout

Guest Post & Giveaway: The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic

Language and World-Building
by Emily Croy Barker

What sort of languages do they speak in other worlds? I gave some serious thought to this matter in writing my novel, The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic—and was intrigued and inspired to discover, in reading about the life of J.R.R. Tolkien, that the same question had helped spark the creation of Middle-earth itself.

Tolkien was 22 years old and a philology student at Oxford University when he encountered the eighth-century Old English poem Crist by Cynewulf. As Colin Duriez writes in J.R.R. Tolkien: The Making of a Legend, the poem included a couple of lines that Tolkien found intensely evocative:

Eala Earendel engla beorhtast
Ofer middangeard monnum sended.

“Hail, Earendel, of angels the brightest,
Sent over middle-earth to mankind.”

Tolkien was struck particularly by the name “Earendel,” which has roots in older, Germanic languages and which he called “euphonic to a peculiar degree.” It inspired him to write his own poem about a hero’s quest.

Instead of just borrowing the name “Earendel,” however, as a good philologist Tolkien worked out an equivalent in Elvish, the private language that he had been developing from Norse and Germanic roots. Earendel becomes “Eärendil” in Tolkien’s poem—and in the sprawling mythology that would eventually underlie The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion.

“…The name could not be adopted just like that,” Tolkien later wrote. “It had to be accommodated to the Elvish linguistic situation, at the same time as a place for this person was made in legend.” Elvish, he went on to say, “was beginning, after many tentative starts in boyhood, to take definite shape at the time of the name’s adoption….” In a foreword to The Lord of the Rings, he wrote that the legends and myths of Middle-earth were “primarily linguistic in inspiration and was begun in order to provide the necessary background of ‘history’ for Elvish tongues.” For Tolkien, the creation of a fantasy world, its history, and its language were inextricably intertwined.

Creating my own fantasy world, I kept that lesson in mind. In my novel, Nora, a graduate student in literature, wanders into an entirely different world, where she ultimately begins the study of magic. Before that, however, she has to learn the language.

Luckily, she’s able to pick up the basics of the common tongue, Ors, while under a translation spell. But it still takes her a while to grasp the nuances of the language and to develop real fluency, not to mention to lose the unfortunate accent that she accidently acquired while under the spell. As she masters Ors, she also learns more about the strange, often frustrating new world in which she finds herself. There are 12 different words for sheep. Given names in the ruling class are all patronymics. Women are supposed to speak slightly differently—more hesitantly—than men. Nora learns just what some of her new friends think of her when she overhears them referring to her with a pronoun used for inanimate objects, animals, or servants.

I want to be perfectly clear: In inventing a language, I was nowhere near as rigorous, analytical, or sophisticated as Tolkien was. There’s no Ors dictionary or grammar. But including just a few details of how the language worked added interesting texture to the world that I’d imagined.

It also helped me show how foreign this place initially seems to Nora. More than once, she’s frustrated because there’s no Ors equivalent for the English word she has in mind. For an academic like Nora, being suddenly illiterate is quietly terrifying. The first time that she even begins to feel at home in this alien world is when she picks up a child’s lesson book in Ors and realizes that she can teach herself to read.

Language is what we build stories out of. We can also use it to build worlds.

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Courtesy of Viking, I have a copy of The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Crow Barker 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 August 23. I’ll draw a name on August 24, and notify winners via email.

ENTER DAILY TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING!

Good luck!

Continue reading Guest Post & Giveaway: The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic

Undead and Unsure Blog Tour: The 12 Days of Betsy

9780425263433_large_Undead_and_Unsure Undead and Uneasy

The Hidden Excerpts
by MaryJanice Davidson
From UNDEAD AND UNEASY, Book 6
(in which Betsy is planning her wedding, and sampling wedding cake flavors with Marc)

“The search is over.” Marc sprayed me lightly with crumbs as he made his announcement in the middle of the Pat-A-Cake bakery on Lake Street. “This is the cake of cakes. The dream cake. The only cake. We’re done now.”

“And when are you two getting married?” the baker, a lovely woman who did not look like she was surrounded by pastry all day, asked brightly.

“After the world blows up,” I replied before Marc could zing me. “And maybe not even then. This is my maid of honor, kinda. He’s not the groom.”

“She won’t put Fag of Honor on the invites,” he complained to the pastry chef, who had managed to hang onto her smile. “And her best friend keeps threatening not to show. But we’ll fix that when the time comes.”

Continue reading Undead and Unsure Blog Tour: The 12 Days of Betsy

The Thousand Names Blog Tour: Launching The Shadow Campaigns

The Thousand Names Blog Tour: Launching The Shadow Campaigns

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The Butcher’s Bill: Kill Your Darlings by Django Wexler

The phrase “In writing, you must kill your darlings” comes to us from William Faulkner, and like any pithy aphorism it has often been misused and misinterpreted. It doesn’t literally refer to killing your characters. Rather, ‘darlings’ means bits of prose, pieces that you’re particularly happy with or proud of.

It’s often passed on as writing advice, but (to my mind, at least) it’s not so much advice as a warning. Every writer has pieces of the story that they love: a clever exchange of dialogue, an apt simile, a telling detail. We’re not being advised to eliminate these things—why would we?—but reminded that they are ‘good’ only in service to the story as a whole.

When the time comes for editing, sometimes they have to go. There is always the temptation to twist the story to save them, to rewrite another dialogue so you can use that bon mot, or divert the heroine to Australia so she can experience that beautiful sunrise you spent so much time on. Faulkner (and generations of writing teachers since) tells us that sometimes you have to let go, to consign your favorite phrases to the trash in the confidence that, when the time comes, you’ll come up with some more.

The original draft of The Thousand Names we submitted to the publishers was about 15% longer than the final version. My editors (I’m in the unusual and excellent position of having two great editors who work together, one from the US and one from the UK) agreed that the book’s pacing could be improved by slimming it down, and offered some hints on what could go.

One of the things we agreed to take out was a series of dream sequences, in which Winter remembers her life back in the Vordanai orphanage known as the Prison and her meetings with the girl whose face haunts her dreams. I liked these sequences a lot, but with an outsider perspective I could see they didn’t fit—they were completely different, tonally, from the rest of the book, and occupied a lot of pages without moving the plot forward. (Plus, as my editor pointed out, dreams don’t usually work like a movie reel of convenient flashbacks!) Getting rid of them was painful, but it was the right thing to do. Kill your darlings.

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But in this wonderful new age of the internet, sometimes they can come back to life! The following is a scene from the “cutting room floor” of The Thousand Names, taking place when Winter was a young teenager, several years before the events of the book. Enjoy!

—————— Continue reading The Thousand Names Blog Tour: Launching The Shadow Campaigns

Guest Post: T.M. Goeglein “From Concept to Completion”

From Concept to Completion, or, How a Blink becomes a Book
by T.M. Goeglein

Want to start up a fiction writer like an outboard motor, I mean, really get him babbling about inspiration and motivation, memories and ‘a moment that changed my life’?

As him where his ideas come from. And then put on your spit-guard and stand back.

When I was first asked this question, I strove to be as earnest as possible, walking backward through my mind like a little Sherlock Holmes – did it start here, did it start there? – and after I’d been spewing nonsense for, like, twenty minutes, non-stop, I gave up. The words faded in my mouth like a slowly deflating balloon. I had no real clue what I was going on about.

Since then, I’ve participated in numerous author events and when a fellow writer is asked this question, I peek at my watch and begin planning a nap-with-my-eyes-open. It’s not uncommon for a response to begin with something like, “Well, when I was a child back in Akron…” Oy vey. You might as well start handing out the No-Doze now.

Here’s all that I know about myself. It starts and ends in the length of a blink of an eye.

I see something on the streets of Chicago – a well-dressed old woman yelling at a cop, who seems scared – or read a story in the news about some guy who, while renovating a deserted home, finds a locked metal box hidden inside of a wall – and that’s it. Done. The idea will be planted like a tree and the rest of the forest, so to speak – the story or book – will grow up around it.

The rest of the process is really too dull to describe. I sit, I write, I edit. But in the end, if that blink has become a book, I know I’ve done my job.

T.M. Goeglein’s new novel Flicker & Burn releases August 20, 2013 from Putnam Juvenile.

Sara Jane Rispoli is still searching for her missing family, but instead of fighting off a turncoat uncle and crooked cops, this time she finds herself on the run from creepy beings with red, pulsing eyes and pale white skin chasing her through the streets in ice cream trucks; they can only be described as Ice Cream Creatures. They’re terrifying and hell bent on killing her, but they’re also a link to her family, a clue to where they might be and who has them. While she battles these new pursuers, she’s also discovering more about her own cold fury and more about the Chicago Outfit, how the past misdeeds–old murders and vendettas–might just be connected to her present and the disappearance of her family. But connecting the dots is tough and time-consuming and may finally be the undoing of her relationship with the handsome Max–who’s now her boyfriend. But for his own safety, Sara Jane may have to end this relationship before it even really starts. Her pursuers who’ve shown her her mother’s amputated finger and the head of the Chicago Outfit who’s just whistled her in for a sit-down make a romance unthinkable. The only thing that matters is finding her family and keeping everyone she loves alive.

Guest Post: Alex Scarrow on TIMERIDERS: THE ETERNAL WAR

By Alex Scarrow:
With the 4th book in the TimeRiders series – THE ETERNAL WAR – soon to be released in the United States I thought I’d let readers into a little insight; I like to do concept art for my books before I write them. Usually I do images depicting some of the key scenes that will go into the book. This then helps me to visualize the scene before I write it. So, I figured, with the release date looming (July 1st) I thought I’d reveal a few of the pieces of concept work and talk a little about each piece and what you’re seeing.

If you’re the type that HATES SPOILERS….probably best to stop right here! (That, or just look at the pictures and don’t read the text.)

In this 4th book, our team discover that a young President Lincoln has been run over by a runaway cart in New Orleans and they’ll have to go back to prevent this happening otherwise the North will not have their wartime president many years later, resulting in the civil war taking a very different course!

But as always, things go wrong and having been saved, a curious 27 year old Lincoln follows our team back to the 21st century, only to escape the TimeRider’s Brooklyn archway and go on the run through modern day New York!

As a result of Lincoln being absent from the past, things inevitably go very differently. No President Lincoln means the civil war becomes a stale mate and America ends up becoming two nations living side by side in a permanent state of war. With the backing of Great Britain, the Southern Confederacy becomes a client state. We wind the clock forward a hundred and fifty years to the present…and the British have brought their industrial might to bear helping the south.

More than that…the British bring their military muscle to bear…

Continue reading Guest Post: Alex Scarrow on TIMERIDERS: THE ETERNAL WAR

Blog Tour: Jack Campbell Guest Post and Giveaway

Author Jack Campbell joins SciFiChick.com on his Blog Tour to promote his latest release The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier: Guardian.

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Jack Campbell on his vision of the future and how it affects his stories:

The setting of a story drives a lot of the plot, and heavily influences the characters. SF and Fantasy writers have the luxury of creating the setting, but (being human and heavily influenced by our own settings) the futures and worlds we create reflect our own hopes and fears.

The future in my stories is what I call a competence-based culture. That means when someone wants to do a job, the only question will be whether or not they can do it. Nothing else will matter, not appearance or race or religion or sex or anything else. Someday, I hope that’s the only question in a job interview. I don’t know if that future will happen. Humans have a bad way of seizing on “differences” that don’t really matter and making them the most important issue, or establishing job requirements that rule out the “wrong people” before they even have a chance to compete. The result has been an incalculable waste of human potential. But I can hope, and I can present such a future the way it might look. It’s not a perfect future, because humans are far from perfect, but it’s better.

Another aspect of my futures is what I call “transparent” technology. That means technology which can be used without having to think about how to use it (or describe it in detail! Who actually does that when they use something?). Instead of having to enter bizarre, complicated commands while stepping through multiple menus and trying to figure out what you’re supposed to do next, transparent tech involves things like increasing the size of a picture by spreading your fingers. My hope is that will become the rule rather than the exception. (Though in one scene in the Lost Fleet books my characters recognize that they should have realized a certain tech was designed by aliens because the control interface was so simple and intuitive. “No human software designer would have done that.”)

A lot of my stories are set in space, in other star systems. I think we’re going to go to the stars someday. It’s not going to be as fast and as easy as writers imagined in the 1940s and 1950s, but it may not be as slow and hard as a lot of people now assume. Getting to the stars is a very hard problem, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be solved. Anything is impossible if you don’t know how to do it, and anything is hard if you don’t know how to do it right. If the answers are there, I think we’ll find them.

One thing I work hard to avoid is the Flintstones/Jetsons Theory of Anthropology. Those two cartoon series assumed that everywhere in the far past and the far future had societies which were a stereotyped version of 1960 suburbs in the United States. That assumption wasn’t unusual. One of the things that seriously dates most SF from the mid-to-late Twentieth Century is that the futures shown, no matter how distant, are in that Mad Men mold. Men do all the thinking, acting and decision-making, and if women appear at all they are usually either housewives or somebody who needs to be rescued. It is incredibly jarring to read those stories now and see futures in which women sometimes don’t even seem to exist. It is also a given in many of those stories that everyone in the future has Anglo-Saxon names. Even Star Wars fell into this sort of trap, originally presenting a future in the first film (A New Hope) in which there were lots of aliens but no humans of African descent. Star Trek TOS did, too, claiming that only men could be captains of starships because women couldn’t handle the job. As a result, I try to avoid assuming that Tomorrow will be dealing with exactly the same role models and cultural assumptions as Today, and I try to avoid presenting a future which includes a narrow vision of who will be represented. Very often, I don’t provide physical descriptions of my characters, letting the reader assign them whatever shape, color, or type feels right to the reader. (In my novelette Lady Be Good, the sex of the point of view character is never identified. It wasn’t necessary to the story, so I didn’t confine the story by setting that characteristic in stone.)

Finally, my futures are ultimately hopeful ones. Terrible things happen, great challenges arise, people are confronted by awful choices, but nonetheless my futures are places where human effort matters, where hope is ever-present, where answers to the toughest problems exist even if not easily found. My characters strive, and suffer, and in the end succeed, because I think that’s the sort of future humans can aspire to.

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Courtesy of Ace, I have a copy of The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier: Guardian for five (5) lucky winners!

Contest is open to US residents only. No PO Boxes, please. To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest ends May 24. I’ll draw a name on May 25, and notify winner via email.

Good luck!

Continue reading Blog Tour: Jack Campbell Guest Post and Giveaway