Betas Wanted: Sojourn in Captivity Update!

Betas Wanted: Sojourn in Captivity Update!
This is a very rough concept sketch of Elele. She actually doesn’t look much like this save for her figure and the wings.

For those of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you’ve seen how happy I am to have completed the third draft to Sojourn in Captivity! I truly feel this is the best thing I’ve written so far (which I honestly hope to say each time I write something). Now that I’ve had an editor take a look at it, it’s time for what I call my Beta Draft.  That means I need beta readers!

I’m sending out the call for any interested beta readers. I tend to like between 5-20 betas. In my mind, the more people who read it, the more feedback you get.  The more feedback you get, the more certain you can be about certain aspects of the story.  I’d like to send out the draft (31,000 words) Saturday, and I’d ask that you send your feedback (and a few very short questionnaires I have for each segment), by May 6. (That would mean you need to read at least a segment every other day.)

Sojourn in Captivity is a prequel, I guess it’s more of a novella now, but I’m calling it a short story, to my Perception of War space war science fiction/fantasy sequence.  He’s an off-the-top-of-my-head blurb:

Elele’s course in life was altered when Adhol (her planet’s name for God) arrived three years ago. Her life remained relatively normal even though she couldn’t travel to the Gernis home planet of Welt, where she was supposed to study with the greatest mathematical minds in the galaxy. She’s still her father’s favorite child. She’s still gotten everything she’s ever wanted that was within her school’s or family’s power to give. That’s all about to change. Since Adhol’s arrival, he’s used his power to elevate her people from vestigial-winged, slender beings known as Seferam into the membrane-winged, monstrously sized Var’lechen.  It’s supposed to be the greatest blessing a Seferam could ask for. It’s supposed to be when a Seferam evolves into a form that more closely resembles their god. There’s only one problem, Elele doesn’t want to transform. When she faces her god, she’ll discover that not only is her life about to change forever, but her family’s had secrets that she’ll have to come to understand before its too late.

I’d be honored if anyone cared to give it a read.  Please reply below or send me an email if you’re interested.

Thank you for reading,



The (Hopefully Decreasing) Divide Between Science Fiction and Fantasy

The (Hopefully Decreasing) Divide Between Science Fiction and Fantasy

Big Break Studios posted a blog recently about genre busting, and that got me thinking about the interesting divide between science fiction and fantasy.

tardisFantasy and science fiction fans have an oddly antagonistic side.  I think part of this is due to what makes fantasy and science fiction fun.  Who was the best Doctor? Which craft would win in a race? Which craft would win in a fight? Which character would win in a fight?

It wasn’t until I really started finding my stride as an author that I noticed this strange habit of fans of one genre not appreciating the other. How big is it? How prevalent? I don’t know, big enough to notice? Anecdotally, for every fan I hear that screams at the other genre, I hear another that just enjoys a good story. The inspiration from this post is that the very fact that these two genres aren’t more closely linked surprises me.

So I thought I’d sit down and talk about the largest areas of contention.  NOTE: All of this is anecdotal, I’m curious if anyone has a more analytical example.

Possible vs Impossible: The Science in Science Fiction.

mathematics-1509559_960_720Speculative science is the heart of any science fiction novel. A science fiction writer is bound by unwritten contract between himself and his readers (I’m a guy, so I’m using the male personal pronoun). Things have to have rules. There must be an explanation for how, scientifically, this story is plausible.  I actually FIRST encountered this in high school science. The teacher was quite admit about disproving any and every science fiction movie out there. As he continued to dispute each movie, I couldn’t help but realize he must have ACTUALLY watched them. Weather he did that just to disprove it or enjoy it is really more of a personal issue, but the point is he watched them. Brandon Sanderson mentioned a discussion he’d had on a panel regarding magic systems and then released his “Laws” on magic.  This brings me to the point of contention:

Science fiction fans want a plausible, scientific reason to justify the possibility of the story. Fantasy fans want a sense of wonder. Feel free to argue and debate this point, but I’ve already said this evidence is anecdotal and these opinions are mine. It’s also my opinion that the reason science fiction fans demand plausibility is the very fact that they want to believe this story could happen. One (fantasy) is about escape where the other (scifi) is about hope.  (And let the debate on that assertion begin).

I don’t really care about this particular sticking point, as I believe both genres do what matters most: They show readers who they can be, if only…If only we strive to travel the stars, we could learn so much more. If only, to me, means nothing more than, “when we.”

I know neither of this are either of the ships I mentioned, but I fear copyright in some cases.

Try this experiment:  Go to a convention. Find a pair arguing about weather the Falcon could beat the Enterprise in a space battle.  Go to them and explain it doesn’t matter because a team of dragon riders from Pern could take them both down at the same time. Before they get going. Make sure you specify that these “dragons” are in reality nothing more than genetically enhanced alien lizards that evolved through cloning and gene modifications.  Call this your control group.

Then, go do the same thing with another pair of fans, but don’t explain the genetic modification tools.  Try not to laugh as this pair of individuals debating the military characteristics of non-existent spacecraft looks you in the eyes and says, “it doesn’t matter because dragons aren’t real.”  I’ve done this experiment, but I failed to avoid laughing. I’m sometimes a petty person.

cat-1299082_960_720Most of the derision I see across these genres comes from that particular fissure in the genre planet. A few authors are doing fantastic things, and that’s inspired me. What if fantasy authors worked a little harder to make their magic plausible? What if science fiction authors worried a little less about how possible things are? I have two projects in the works that I think pay tribute to both genres. They’re primarily fantasy in terms of marketing but when I can explain something scientifically, I do. The magic systems in each project (Perception of War, the series Sojourn in Despair comes from, is one of them) is fairly hard (if you subscribe to Sanderson’s First Law).

I think there’s a trick to that though. That trick is commitment to your core genre. You want to avoid Deus Ex Machina whenever possible. A story that ends on an overly convenient plot device, regardless of genre, isn’t going to go over well with the fans.  But this divide I’m discussing, I think, comes more from this assertion:

Fantasy fans are more willing to suspend disbelief than science fiction fans.

So, if you’re writing fantasy, I wouldn’t recommend taking three chapters to dissect your magic system right up front. Fantasy readers usually stop at, “Guy can fly.” It’s wonderful to weave in a few explanations of powers as the story progresses, especially if that ability is going to be the key to saving the universe (see Sanderson’s First Law). Science fiction fans demand more details. They’ll want to understand how things are possible sooner, and are therefore more willing to accept large data chunks in the story early on, (accept and larger are dangerously unspecific terms).

What are your thoughts? Which side of the line do you fall under?  Also, I meant what I said. A wing of dragon riders of Pern, and I’d argue a single dragon like Ruth or Mnementh could take out both starships. Seriously.

Thanks for reading,


The Influence of Life on Art

The Influence of Life on Art

One of the more common questions I get is “Which of your characters is most like you?”  I’ve heard other authors talk about this with varying degrees of frustration.  I’m not exactly sure, exactly, what the consensus feeling is, but some authors don’t like the idea that the characters they create are based on someone (or at least just one person).  I’ve discussed how I develop characters, and it’s absolutely true that they all have some pieces of lots of people I know, but no one character is simply a representation of any one person.  I’m frankly too afraid of appropriation lawsuits.

A lot of my friends mention that reading my book was odd because they saw so much of me in my books.  I don’t mind that so much, but that’s because I always give my characters some part of myself.

There’s a common phrase in the world of writing:  Write what you know.  Now, in Fantasy, this seems much more difficult when you consider ancient worlds and other races. Still, the simple fact is the life you live has an impact on the worlds you create.  While I normally like to do case studies, I just don’t have enough knowledge on other authors to speak.  At best, I have a few vague recollections.  I believe this to be true about most authors, and to show it, I’ll talk about how my life has effected my art.

coverrevealIn The Journals of Bob Drifter, the most direct things I pulled from my life are locations and occupations.  Patience is a photographer because I’m a photographer.  I understood the field, and it worked for the story.  Bob is a substitute teacher.  The trick he used when he first met David is the same trick I used to gain my classes’ attention as a substitute. The fact that Bob looks a lot like me is coincidental.  I had a buzz-cut hairstyle pretty much the last 15 years of my life.  I grew it out recently.  I was at an event when someone showed me the cover and said, “Is that you?”  No.  While Bob has my background in education, the similarities in hair are about all we have in common.  I have family near Surprise, Arizona.  I was stationed in San Diego and Syracuse while I served in the Navy.  I took these locations because they were familiar.  It made it easier for me to write since I could actually remember some of these locations.

I want to be clear about my role in the Navy.  I served as a combat photographer.  While some of my friends saw combat, and even earned recognition for their actions in combat, I didn’t see any.  However, I certainly trained a lot.  That training was put to use in Caught while writing the scenes involving Oneiros.  None of this is stuff you couldn’t learn by watching Act of Valor, but it helped me have something to draw from.

While stationed in San Diego, I did a lot of volunteer work.  I did some work with the homeless, and was shocked to hear that, as of 2010, there were 1,200 homeless veterans in the city of San Diego alone.  This became the inspiration for another book.

Now for the other side of the coin.

I took this image while serving in Afghanistan. It was shot as part of my official duties and, as such, is public domain.

I expect most authors pull from what they know.  It adds realism and makes world-building easier, but there is a line.  It’s poorly defined and depends more on the author than any actual rules.  I’ve been to Afghanistan.  I know what the weather is like.  I know the road conditions.  But I didn’t take actual locations.  First off, my memory (while, in my opinion is pretty darn good, isn’t good enough to remember any one of the dozens of locations I visited in the six months I was there.

I mentioned Kirkuk Iraq in another book, but only as a location.  Appropriation is a real privacy rights violation and something I take seriously.  Locations are one thing, people are far more important.  Yes, I usually take a TRAIT or two from people I know, but I have not (well..not since I was 13 and clueless) nor will not ever simply take someone I know and make them into a character.  The closest I came was an old chief of mine.  I spoke to him about it.  While they look nothing alike and their situations in life are not even remotely similar, the trait I gave this character is what most would know my old chief for.    The point is, I felt so strongly that I approached him and discussed the matter with him.

The balance between writing what you know and creating what you can create is an art in and of itself.  Let me end with a few dos and don’ts.

I captured this image while serving in Kirkuk, Iraq. This image is also public domain.

Do:  Use what you know to draw from.  Your careers, hobbies, and interests can make for wonderful world building tools.  Don’t be afraid to put them to use.

Do:  Use locations and cultures with which you are familiar.  It’s important to build a life-like world or use real-world locations in ways that help the reader gain a more visceral experience.

Don’t: Use real people without their expressed written permission.  If that sounds like the end of a football game, it should.  Now, some people enter contests specifically to be put in books.  The very act of entering said contest waves a persons right to having their likeness used fictitiously.

Don’t: Use real scenes.  This is debatable.  The point is it’s close to the line, and I tend to avoid things like that.  If I write about a restaurant in San Diego, I make sure I’m using that fictitiously, and it’s not fictionalized in an unflattering way.  (At least I make every effort to do that).  If I can make up a place, I do.  There may indeed be a restaurant in San Diego at the location I offer, but if there is, I didn’t know it was there.    So long as the location is simply used as a setting, I’m not OVERLY worried, but if I have any other way to do it, I will, especially if I’m looking for a “seedy” location or something of the sort.  If I write information that’s accurately portraying the location, I’m safe, but accuracy becomes my friend.  At the end of the day, if you’re worried about it, if you feel a little weird about it, don’t do it.

If you’re an author, and you want to provide your thoughts, please feel free to do so in the comments section.

Thanks for reading,